by Cecelia Holland
Cover Artist: Lucus Graciano; Design by Peter Lutjen
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765337948
Date: 01 September 2015 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The inevitable march of a powerful empire is restrained by the magic of one city. Slowly the grind of the empire is wearing away at the bedrock of the city. A princess unable to communicate by voice may be the land's only hope.
Castle Ocean sits by the sea. Her people get by through trade and helping each other. The coming of the empire is going to change this. The sons of the emperor have plans for the area and an independent city is not part of those plans. The people and royals cannot resist the might of the empire directly, but there is a strange and powerful magic that slowly corrodes the power set against Castle Ocean.
Tirza was never able to speak like a normal child. Because of this difference, she was sent away. When her father dies and her mother is being forced to remarry, Tirza is used as an excuse to delay the wedding. Jeon, her twin is sent to retrieve her. An attack by a dragon opens up a whole new world to Tirza. This new world allows her to see things differently. While her siblings challenge directly, Tirza has learned to look at the struggle in a new way. One that is not easy to see or follow.
Cecilia Holland, a master of historical fiction, turns her head to fantasy. This isn't the Norse fantasy I half expected. The first stories by her which I read were tales of the North. She did an excellent job writing that warrior fiction, so I was not concerned about picking up her fantasy novel. I knew coming in that Holland could write action and develop characters. There was no let down in this regard.
This is the start of a new tragic fantasy series. There is a lot of grey in the story, with hope stirred into the mix. A land that knew only peace must learn to fight. But fighting changes the people. Much is left unresolved by the end of the story, but new avenues are opened up for Tirza even as her old world is lost.
I was definitely left with a few questions. Tirza comprehends the world around her, I was left wondering why her family or those around her did not try one expedient to facilitate her communication, pen and paper. Now, it may be that it would not work, but it seemed like an unexplored avenue. Nonetheless, I look forward to the continuing adventures of Tirza.