Publishers Weekly Review
Kestra Dallisor is the defiant 16-year-old daughter of Sir Henry Dallisor, chief counsel to Antora's evil and possibly immortal ruler, Lord Endrick. Kestra is returning home following a three-year exile when Corack rebels ambush her carriage. Her attackers kidnap and threaten to kill Kestra's driver and handmaid unless she smuggles two insurgents, Simon and Trina, into Sir Henry's estate and helps them find the Olden Blade. The Blade is purportedly the only weapon capable of killing Lord Endrick, and it's rumored to be hidden in the Dallisor dungeons. Kestra only cooperates because she must, but the longer she spends in the Coracks' company, the more she questions what she knows about her kingdom, her family, and herself. First in a trilogy, this entertaining but uneven fantasy novel from Nielsen (the Mark of the Thief trilogy) advocates tolerance while championing female self-empowerment. Kestra and Simon's alternating narratives are engaging and distinctive, but although Nielsen's characters harbor plenty of secrets, they are somewhat one-dimensional, reducing the emotional impact of an otherwise action-packed, romance-laden tale. Ages 12-up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Review
Gr 6-8-The world has been engulfed in perpetual war. Kestra, the daughter of the emperorlike leader of the Dominion, is blackmailed into stealing a powerful artifact called the Olden Blade which can tilt the balance of power in the region. Between the onslaught of warring tribes and ever-changing loyalties, the book is replete with tense moments that propel the story forward. Nielsen does a masterful job keeping readers off guard while tightening the screws of tension throughout, satisfying even the most reluctant readers. The dialogue can read dry at times, but the plot-based twists and turns more than make up for it. An otherworldly story with a side of fantasy on the surface, the setup and struggle feels universal. Small plot reveals are meted out every few scenes to keep teens intrigued and thirsting for more. This is clearly the first of a series, as the ending is just the reckoning that some much larger battle is at hand. VERDICT A competent addition to any middle school library, especially where there are fans of Cassandra Clare and Suzanne Collins.-Brian Hoff, Elmwood Park High School, IL © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.