I really, really
wanted to give this four stars, but it was lacking a depth and sophistication (really, just a more well-rounded understanding and background on Darian, his family and the political situation as a whole that would have added so much to this story - fine, and possibly getting to see just a bit of where Lilah and Peitar went from here) that would have placed it there. But, as usual, Sherwood Smith has crafted a tale that rings true and that is alive. It makes you consider things again, things that you may take for granted. It is not her finest, but it is a good introduction and one I am happy to recommend.
This is one of Sherwood Smith's stories that feels like it may have been redacted for a younger audience and I wish so dearly that I could see what it looked like originally. I have this hope that some of the depth I am looking for was there.
"I admit freely to having committed treason. That is," he said, "if you define treason as the attempt to overthrow the government. If you define treason as I do - the attempted overthrow of our ancient laws - then I don't believe I've committed treason."
Peitar Selenna's speech here is really wonderful to see in a MG novel. The civil war, its presentation and the ideas and ideals explored are all thoughtful and mature. So much more so than in most recent books I have read, Smith lets these ideas speak and allows her readers to journey through complicated times.
War is not glory. Few situations are as simple as we think. There are rarely "true" villains in her work, though evil deeds abide. The fact that she distinguishes is another factor that I appreciate.
I wish that we had heard more about Darian and his sister. Everything that occurred to create this situation.
Was that why my relatives had tried to make me into a semblance of my mother? Some might have wanted a king's pet so they could get me to ask for favors, but other people, like Tsauderei, and Lizana, had hinted that Uncle Darian's own life might have been better if there had been a person like my mother in it. But I'd pushed him away. What might have changed if I'd managed to take her place in his heart?
More of Lizana's tale. A loyal servant of Darian but fierce protector of Peitar and Lilah. Her perspective would have been insightful and added a new dimension.
I liked the importance of family and Peitar and Lilah's relationship.
And before he returned to Delfina, Tsauderei had told me, "Remember what I said. He needs you."
"How?" I asked. "I can't govern."
"Be yourself. It's the best gift you can give him."
I do hope that Lilah and Peitar and company show up again somewhere in the annals of Sartorias-Deles.
Peitar's and my lives were forever changed. Father was dead, and here we were, king and princess. We'd known one another's true selves for so short a time, and now he belonged to the kingdom, whereas I ... I belong to myself.
Edit: I just saw in Sherwood's own review that a lot of worldbuilding details and such were indeed cut out. Alas.