by Julia Golding
When the kingdoms of Gerfal and the Blue Crescent Islands become the targets of an evil ruler plotting to conquer all lands and make them his, there seems to be no choice but to ally together with an arranged marriage between the Prince of Gerfal, Ramil, and the Fourth Crown Princess of the Blue Crescent Islands, Taoshira (Tashi).
Everyone understands the importance of the marriage. Everyone understands that this may be the only way for the two countries to survive the war that's coming.
Of course, that all flies out the window when Tashi, who was brought up with strict rules of conduct and behavior, meets Ramil, who... wasn't.
They dislike each other on sight and unintended insults make things worse and force Tashi to call the whole thing off.
Unfortunately, they're going to need to figure out how to work together because instead of the war coming to them, they're being forced to go to the war.
Now they must deal with kidnappers, attempted brainwashing, religious fanatics, slavery, near-death experiences, and the deadly ruler of the armies that are heading to their kingdoms.
Can Tashi and Ram learn to work together, even when their worlds are so completely different?
Final thoughts: This one dragged me in and wouldn't let me go. It sped through the story and even forced a few gut reactions from me. Golding easily could have turned this into a fantasy trilogy, like so many authors do; but she's chosen to squash it all into one book. In many ways, this is great! No waiting around for the last book. However, there are a few scenes that I think could have been fleshed out more and really given some depth. And some events happen so fast that if you blink, you miss them. There is also a smaller story about religion and religious tolerance here. It's very timely in the sense that many people seem to believe that their religion is the only one that matters and everyone should follow it, no matter what. This story touches on the idea of letting each person have their own faith and leave them to it. Don't judge that faith and don't judge the person on that faith. There are more in this series coming from Golding, though it seems to be a series based on the world that was created, rather than the characters, so I'm not sure if we'll see Ram and Tashi again... but I hope we do!