by Sherwood Smith
San Diego : Harcourt Brace & Co., c1997.
What would you do if your people had been taxed to the limit and the current king was planning on breaking a contract that would turn allies against you? Meliara and her brother go to war after the death of their father, the Count, but are surprised when no one will ally with them against the crooked king. They stand alone against the king's armies, knowing they're merely a thorn in his side and their people could be wiped out at any time.
Mel's brother calls her quick-witted, quick tempered, and quick to judge, a characterization that she bears out in her actions and tendencies to jump to conclusions throughout the story. I came to different conclusions from her fairly early on, but seeing her character have to grapple with changing opinions was still worthwhile. The narrative sometimes reads with the stilt of someone using a thesaurus one too many times, but I read quickly enough to ignore this for the most part. The story ends satisfactorily while still leaving possibilities open for the sequel. Despite its focus on battles and political intrigue, there is very little on-scene violence, and I would easily recommend this to younger fantasy readers as well as high school students closer in age to Mel herself.