Sherwood Smith started making books out of paper towels at age six. In between stories, she studied and traveled in Europe, got a Masters degree in history, and now lives in Southern California with her spouse, two kids, and two dogs. She's worked in jobs ranging from counter work in a smoky harbor bar to the film industry. Writing books is what she loves best. She's the author of the high fantasy History of Sartorias-deles series as well as the modern-day fantasy adventures of Kim Murray in Coronets and Steel. Learn more at www.sherwoodsmith.net.
Meliara, the young countess of Tlanth, could be a medieval Rizzo, one tough cookie in a land where women and girls fight, spy, run companies of military guards and battle with short swords. Plus, when she washes the caked dirt off of her thin little face and throws off her raggedy tunic, she reveals bright blue eyes, a tiny waist and knee-length hair "not just brown, but brown and red and gold and wheat." Mel, as her brother Bran calls her, lives in the hills in a crumbling castle. They promise their embittered dying father to rid the land of the greedy king, who in addition to imposing the usual kingly evils of high taxes and cruel minions, plans to break the sacred covenant with the teeny Hill Folk, who protect the great forests and bestow Fire Sticks. The rollicking plot and prickly Meliara's adventures as she stumbles into the clutches of King Galdran and the distant and unfathomable Marquis of Shevraeth create a fantasy world fit for the most discriminating medieval partisan. It cleverly walks just this side of parody, getting away with lines like, "I wished I could personally flout him and his busy searchers, and make him look the fool he was." Smith (Wren to the Rescue) leaves the reader hanging at the end of this book, all the better to await Book II in the projected series. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Gr 7-10‘Short-tempered and unbelievably obtuse, Countess Meliara is a prickly and hostile heroine. Her combination of ignorance and bad judgment leads her into some sticky situations, providing occasions for her to glare, slam doors, or otherwise behave like an ill-bred child while her country is being exploited by a greedy king. Long before 200 pages end, many readers will be thoroughly tired of her. Intelligent readers won't get past the huge logical gap in the prologue: the Hill Folk had such powerful magic that Mel's people made a Covenant with them rather than face a fight, so why isn't that magic used to defeat the evil king who wants to break their Covenant? (In fact, it suddenly is, 21 pointless chapters later, just as Mel wakes up to how wrong she has been, on almost the last page.) An utterly predictable plot involving battles and strategies follows, featuring stupid mistakes and incredible rescues (feisty as Mel is, she still needs a prince, actually, a marquis here, to bail her out), is unredeemed by any felicity of style: Anglicisms ("Must say, he's been decent enough"); archaisms ("mayhap," "affright," "besorceled"); and slang ("blab," "ain't," "Looks like you got eggs in those shoes") jostle uncomfortably, often in the mouths of the same characters. The action is told, rather than shown. Reluctant readers face a plot of confusing intrigue, and some difficult vocabulary. Spare me Book II.‘Patricia Lothrop-Green, St. George's School, Newport, RI