Digger thrives as a spy and sneak-thief among the feuding religious factions of Gerse, dodging the Greenmen who have banned all magic. But when a routine job goes horribly wrong and her partner and lover Tegen is killed, she has to get out of the city, fast, and hides herself in a merry group of nobles to do so.Accepted as a lady’s maid to shy young Merista Nemair, Digger finds new peace and friendship at the Nemair stronghold–as well as plenty of jewels for the taking.
But after the devious Lord Daul catches her in the act of thievery, he blackmails her into becoming his personal spy in the castle, and Digger soon realizes that her noble hosts aren’t as apolitical as she thought… that indeed, she may be at the heart of a magical rebellion.
Ah some good, old-fashioned YA fantasy. I needed this because I’ve been reading some really bad PNR lately, and I need a palate-cleansing plot immediately. This one is about Digger, who goes by the name Celyn for at least some of the book. We know very little about Tegen, since he dies before we even meet Digger, and the beginning was a little confusing for me. There are no info-dumping monologues often found in fantasy, but, lacking those, there was no real world-building. It took several chapters for me to even understand that magic had been outlawed and that the world had multiple moons. There’s just not a lot of background, which is fine, because that just means another coming of age tale! The book finally starts picking up about a quarter of the way through (which isn’t really that long), but honestly, I liked this one the whole time, even when it was just Merista, Digger, and Merista’s family traveling.
The story remains kind of slow-moving, but never boring. We learn things as Digger does, which means we are in the dark as much as she is. Her dual names were a bit confusing, but learning more about the Nemair and the Sarists was so interesting that I didn’t mind. I think Digger’s motivations were clear in the book, and even I was a little intimidated by Lord Daul (who, for some reason, I kept thinking of as Darken Rahl from the Sword of Truth series). There are many mysteries in the mountains of Bryn Shaer, and while Digger is in over her head, she’s not even out of the kiddy pool when it comes to intrigue. I was really taken in by the complications and political machinations of Llyvraneth. I mentioned that this novel is a coming of age for Digger, but it also appears that way for Merista. She makes big changes as the story progresses.
The mystery in this one kept me guessing, and while I wasn’t really surprised by the twist, it was still a good one. I thought Werne the Bloodletter was a little too easily intimidated too, as though he wasn’t used to anyone fighting against him. He’s only 26. I have a feeling men have tried to brawl with him before, yet he’s thrown totally off his guard by two teenagers escaping his clutches? Not much of a villain, in my opinion, but that remains to be seen with the next book. Which I will be reading ASAP. This one’s great if you’re looking for a character-driven tale of pure YA fantasy (with zero romance)!