Smith, Sherwood. Apr. 1997. 272p. Harcourt/Jane Yolen, $17 (0-15-201608-2).
Gr. 5-8. Young Meliara and her brother, Bran, promise their dying father that they will rise against wicked King Caldran and protect their lands and the Covenant, an age-old promise to the mysterious Hill People. Armed with little beyond their ideals and their courage, their small band prepares to fight the king's army, but the scene shifts quickly. Soon Meliara is injured, taken hostage, helped to escape, taken prisoner again, saved, and finally held by a man she has come to hate, though her brother believes him to be a friend. Relying less on magical elements than in the Wren trilogy, Smith tells a fast-moving tale of adventure, intrigue, and honor, with Mel a likable heroine and a lively narrator. Characters and setting are well realized, but the novel seems plot driven from its midpoint almost to the book's end. Still, the story does not end there: this is book one of the Crown and Court Duet. Many readers will look forward to reading more about Meliara and friends in book two.