* I received an advanced review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily. *
Goodreads Summary: Fourteen-year-old Mary McThomas is being raised a lady, but she knows she was born to be a knight. It’s an impossible dream, one that almost costs her father his life. After an ambush on their village leaves him gravely wounded, Mary is willing to do anything to save him, even if it means following a mysterious fae far from home. Accompanied by her older brothers, Mary plunges into a world of magic, danger, and an ancient grudge seeking to spill new blood.
But while Mary hunts for the cure, someone else is hunting for her. And he will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants.
With evil closing in from all sides, Mary will have to trust in her warrior heart to rescue her father, her family, and her world.
Bookish Raider Review: To start this review, this book is a bit more juvenile in the young adult category however not quite middle-grade. I would describe it is a young teen/tween novel. There is no romance (maybe a little hint at the end) and it is primarily centered around a young girl finding herself and secondary is the importance of family and specifically a parent’s love. I loved this book! If I am being honest, I cried multiple times during this story… almost every time Mary spoke about her parents, tears come to my eyes. This was such a sweet story around a family’s love for each other. It is a fast paced adventure of a 14 year-old girl who wants to save her father from a poison-curse with a rag-tag group led by a fairy and accompanied by her twin older brothers. This group could not be more different from each other but they all bring something valuable to the table… even if they do not know it.
The setting is a fictional world where fae and magic exist however based on the terms used (lass, lad, bairn, aye), it feels a lot like Scotland to me. Mary lives in a village where the men are knights and the women manage the home and take care of their husband and children. When the book opens, Mary dreams to be a knight like her father and brothers. However, in her world, she cannot train, she cannot read, and she is expected to become a lady like her mother.
A surprise attack on the knights kick-starts the action of the novel as Mary’s father is gravely injured while protecting her. While sneaking out to find a way to cure her father, she encounters a fairy who tells her that the attackers are looking for her and she needs to leave the village.
Mary meets two different groups along her way who aid on her journey. One is a clan of Fae who provide each member of her group with a gift and assists on their way. The second group of nomads who show Mary a different way of life closer to what she dreams of.
This story is really about Mary “finding” herself. The book really focuses on how Mary wants to be a knight and the “sword” of the family like her father. However, what is most interesting to me is that whenever Mary has to be strong and take action during her adventure, it is not her father as a knight that she draws strength from but her mother as the “shield”.
While I loved this book, I did have some issues particularly with the world building. The magic isn’t really explained too well and the whole premise behind the connection between Mary and the main antagonist is kind of just briefly explained. Since I believe this is the first book in a planned trilogy, I hope this is explained a little more. Another small issue is that the book really talks about Mary wanting to fight and become a knight, but she has exactly zero skills and at every turn, she is very timid and is very hesitant to fight (understandably, as she doesn’t know how). It is not until about 62% into the book that she receives any kind of “training”. Again, a very small detail… I’m just being nit-picky.
This was an amazing and quick read that I recommend to anyone interested in the younger end of teen/young adult fiction.
Favorite Quote: “The unwavering love of a mother is the greatest gift the whole world has to offer.”
Treasure Found: The entire relationship between Mary and her parents. Again, I think I cried at every scene.
Book Boyfriend: Since the characters in this book ranged mainly from 14-17, I don’t feel like I should choose a Book Boyfriend… However, if I picked based on adorable-ness, I pick Joseph because I loved his awe of magic and fae.