Theo is traveling Westmark, learning about the country of which he will soon be Prince Consort. He is not surprised to find great poverty-Mickle (now known as Princess Augusta) could have told him that from her years on the street. His friend Florian could have told him about the aristocracy's graft and corruption. But neither could have foreseen a loaded pistol in the practiced hand of the assassin Skeit. The echoes of that shot ring from the muskets and cannons of a Westmark suddenly at war-a war that turns simple, honest men into cold-blooded killers, Mickle into a military commander, and Theo himself into a stranger. . . .
"The plot is magnificent, the characterizations are excellent, and the issues are compelling." (Children's Literature)
This is the second book in the Westmark Trilogy and starts up a short time after the last book left off. It was a solid young adult fantasy; I didn't like it quite as much as the first book but it was still a very well put together fantasy.
Theo is assigned with going exploring around the kingdom and reporting the findings back to the Queen and King. While he is out news comes to him from Florian that one of the kingdom's main generals may be a traitor; right after Theo gets this news he receives news that the king has died...now Mickle is Queen of the realm. Theo sets off to find Mickle but instead gets embroiled in fighting and it is fighting that brings out the more violent side of his nature. Mickle, meanwhile, has other ideas of what a Queen should be doing and takes off to find Theo.
This book switches perspective a lot more than the first book. We hear things from Theo's view, Mickle's view, Kellner's view, the Chief Magistrate's view, Prince Connie's view, and the water-rats' view. All that switching around breaks up the story a little, but for the most part things flow very well.
As in the first book, the plot is very engaging as are the characters. This book is a bit of a tougher read because you have to read carefully to follow the plot and all the people; in that it is typical of most epic fantasies. The style of the writing is very similar to the first book.
There were a couple this about this book that were a bit "off" for me. The first was that there was so much discussion of politics; I personally prefer reading about adventuring versus politics...the politics are well done but there are a lot of them. The second thing was Mickle's character. It bothered me how she spent most of her childhood as a beggar and then she is Queen and suddenly she understands military strategy and is super strong and proficient. I think if I were a younger reader this wouldn't bug me as much; but as an adult I want to know where she learned all these military tactics...I know she is smart, but still.
Outside of the above mentioned quibbles, this was a very well done novel. You definitely need to read the first book first. I would recommend this for young adults and older, it is not that content is inappropriate for younger children...it is just that I don't think younger children will be all into the politics going on here. I am eager to read the third (and final) book in the trilogy "The Beggar Queen".