In this wonderful coming-of-age story, Katherine has been invited to live with her uncle, Alec Campion, aka the Mad Duke Tremaine. To her dismay, instead of going to balls and getting married, she'll be learning swordplay. At first confused and upset by this decision, Katherine comes to fully embrace this unconventional path and learns the value of bravery, loyalty and, most importantly, integrity.

Katherine is a bright girl, full of youthful impetuousness and passion. As she learns swordplay -- first from the dramatic and temperamental Venturus and later from a mysterious man she refers to as "the master" -- her initially romantic notions of it are dispelled. But it isn't until she sets out to avenge a betrayal that she learns the truth about the path her uncle has set her on.

Readers will find much to enjoy in this gorgeously written swashbuckler, from the sparkling dialogue to the fascinating setting and finely wrought secondary characters. This novel is epic fantasy at its best -- literate, witty and utterly fascinating. (Aug., 400 pp., $14.00)

Reviewed by: 
Natalie A. Luhrs