Saturday, February 23, 2008

Victoria Hanley

The Seer and the Sword
by Victoria Hanley
Recommended Age: 13+

The Seer is the Princess Torina, whose warrior-king father brings her two gifts as spoils of a war in which he conquered a peaceful, magical country. One gift is a crystal ball in which she learns to see the future. The other is Landen, son of a defeated king, who is given to Torina as a slave and instantly set free. Raised as a member of the king's household, Landen learns the arts of combat and becomes a fearsome warrior. But he is restrained from avenging his father's death by two things - one being his devotion to the cause of peace, and the other his growing love for Torina.

The Sword is the symbol of Bellandra, the land of which Landen was destined to be king - a kingdom that no longer exists. The Sword has magic in it, such that no one can defeat the one who wields it... as long as it is wielded for peace, not conquest. All his early life, Landen has been taught that true strength lies in doing no harm. But now he has a rude awakening, as he is dragged up through the ranks of a military school in which his peaceful inclinations are viewed as weaknesses to be ruthlessly exploited.

So Landen learns to be strong, and he yearns to take back the Sword of Bellandra that was stolen by Torina's father. But someone else has it in for the king, and Landen's motive of revenge makes him a likely suspect when the king is murdered. While Landen goes into hiding, Torina is one of the few that believes in his innocence. But she has enough troubles of her own, escaping from marriage to the power-grasping General Vesputo, surviving an arduous trek through harsh terrain, and keeping her identity concealed while most of the world believes she is dead and her worst enemies want to make sure she is.

The main body of this book, then, is the exciting, suspenseful, heart-rending, and complex tale of the two young lovers, living under new identities and each believing the other lost forever... of a dowager queen, holding on to hope though she is trapped in the stronghold of her enemy... of a brave high king whose dreams of peace and unity are tested by threats from abroad and treachery at home... and of the wicked Vesputo's vile ambition. A page turner right up to its intense climax, this is a story from the tradition of The Princess Bride and Just Ella that quite possibly surpasses them in its depth of passion and grandeur of vision.

EDIT: I was unaware until just now that this book is the first in a series that continues in The Healer's Keep and The Light of the Oracle.

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