Eight-year-old princess Rilsin Sae Becha is the sole survivor of a palace coup. In exchange for her life, she pledges loyalty to her young cousin Sithli Sae Melisin, the new SaeKet. As the girls grow up, Sithli's dependence on Rilsin creates a cage in which Rilsin can't escape.

Sola is an engineer whom Rilsin meets, and her clever mind quickly sees the value of his inventions. As the court engineer, Sola introduces new marvels benefiting all. Soon, his machines awe the neighboring nations and trade opportunities commence. Rilsin becomes an expert swordmistress and guard commander, beloved of the people. The popularity enjoyed by Sola and Rilsin intimidates Sithli into reckless rule. Rilsin must decide between supporting the SaeKet's excesses or betraying her long-ago pledge and support the people of the land against Sithli.

Noel-Anne Brennan is a sensitive writer whose intense tale of honor and sacrifice is definitely a keeper. Strong characterizations coupled with exceptional plotting result in a heartwarming epic. (Mar., 368 pp., $6.99)

Reviewed by: 
Kelly Rae Cooper