Dashti is a common animal herder, fated to live out her days in servitude and grinding poverty. When her mother dies, leaving her alone in the world, she becomes a maid to Lady Saren, a beautiful young noblewoman. Dashti’s fate seems to be looking up, until her lady is banished to a tower for seven years for refusing to marry the man to whom her father has betrothed her. Soon both Dashti and Saren are imprisoned in the tower, and Dashti has only her journal and her magical healing songs to keep her from going insane. She must find a way to escape her prison and reunite Lady Saren with her beloved, the leader of a neighboring territory. However, Dashti soon realizes that her destiny is pulling her in an entirely different direction, one in which she will defeat a great evil and find her own true love.
Since this story is written for a YA audience, the language is a bit simplistic. This bothered me for about five pages, but then I got sucked into the story! This is another excellent fantasy, and I liked it at least as much as the Bayern series. Dashti is a great heroine – she’s strong, practical, resourceful, and able to use her sense of humor to keep things in perspective. She also reveres her family’s background and traditions, and her knowledge of the old legends helps her to find a creative solution to the threat against her land. I really enjoyed the world-building in this novel, particularly the stories about the gods, and I’d love to read more books set in this world! I also liked the romance, which was both believable and well plotted. This is one of my favorite books by Shannon Hale, and I hope she decides to revisit this world in the future!