Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-544-66445-6 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 7-10
Her father was the Malam king’s best bounty hunter, but now seventeen-year-old Britta Flannery is a weak, starving mess three months after his murder, shunned by her Malam neighbors for her mother’s Shaerdan bloodline and the possibility of black magic it brings. When she’s caught poaching on the king’s land, she’s given a choice: hang or use the tracking skills she learned from her father to find Cohen, Britta’s childhood friend and the likely killer of her father. Along the way, her innate ability to sense truth, lies, and death becomes stronger; when she finds Cohen, his innocence is clear—as are the lies Malam’s rulers are spreading in order to incite war. The setting and premise are generic retreads of female-led fantasy books, and Britta’s voice doesn’t bring much ingenuity or spark. Her worrying over Cohen’s feeling for her is frustratingly repetitive and it breaks the established rule that she can sense people’s truths (you’d think she’d get some hint of his, especially after he directly confesses his affection). More intriguing is Enat, a gnarled, gruff, and witty old woman they meet on the road, and Britta’s connection to her is both surprising and sweet. Fans of Boecker’s The Witch Hunter (BCCB 9/15) may enjoy the similar plot elements and themes here.