Reviewed by Carrie Spellman for TeensReadToo.com
The Duchy of Oc has been a safe place for many, many years. Long enough that protection isn't something that people think about, much less anticipate needing. All of that is about to change.
On a quiet day in late summer, Aesk raiders invade the fishing village of Onmarin. Many people were killed, and two children were taken. If they're lucky they will survive to be slaves. The Aesks aren't known for their kindness.
Larkyn Hamly and her friend, Hester Beeth, happened to be in Onmarin on that day. They were visiting their friend Rosellen, the stable girl from the Academy of the Air. Rosellen was killed that day, and her little sister was one of the children who was taken. Larkyn and Hester escaped. Unharmed physically, but tortured emotionally, they are determined to have something done. Young girls, especially ones who should be focused on horsemistress training, can't do much. They must hope that the council will do the right thing.
The Duke's descent into madness has grown more frightening, and more dangerous. No one and nothing is safe from him, and no one seems to have the power to stop him. More than a few people don't even see the need to try.
Mistress Winter again becomes their hope. She's not only fighting for the people of Onmarin, she's fighting to keep her job, and keep the Academy running, free from Duke William's dangerous clutches. He will try to stop her, even destroy her and Larkyn, at every possible opportunity. Mistress Winter is left, with little support, to make potentially dangerous alliances and promises.
Larkyn is nearly alone as well. She must not only keep herself and her beloved Tup, her winged horse, safe from Duke William, but she must walk a fine line to keep her family's home from being taken away.
The Duchy of Oc seems to be balancing very shakily. It's clear that something must happen, but what?
The more I read, the more involved and in love I am with these books. They are completely absorbing. The world that is created is so rich and full and real. The characters are wonderfully interesting and well-developed. I feel like I live inside this world and I know these people. This is great fantasy at work.
I'm not ready for this series to be done yet, and thankfully it isn't, but I'm not sure I ever want it to end.