Having just barely recovered from his dependence on mind-numbing drugs thanks to Skandian slave drivers, ranger’s apprentice Will is convalescing in an isolated cottage with Evanlyn, the Araluen princess in disguise. They are waiting for the thaw to complete their escape to Araluen. When Evanlyn goes to find food and never returns, Will forces himself to follow her. Meanwhile, Halt and Horace are still searching for Will and Evanlyn. On their search they find suspicious signs of Temujai activity and realize that the whole of Skandia is in danger.
Like the rest in the series, this book is a lot of fun, and perhaps more so than the others. The characters have developed enough that they have much more emotional pull on both readers and each other. The relationship between Will and Evanlyn, for example, has really changed quite a bit from the beginning and continues to do so over the course of the book. I’ve found that all the characters have grown in believable ways and I feel a lot of sympathy towards them. They work best all together and I was very pleased to see that happen in this book.
The plot is, as usual, fast moving and exciting, if a little predictable. Just the first chapter is enough to start building the suspense and getting the book on a roll. I read this for the Read-a-Thon and it was perfect. It is very easy to sit and read though and I suspect would hold the attention of more reluctant readers, too.
I also thought the value of cooperation and learning from other people was really emphasized in this book. Obviously, this is still YA, but I think it’s better to show Skandians learning from Araluens after all this time rather than having them retain hostility. I really liked how diplomacy worked in this novel; the relations between the nations are developing just like those between characters.
So far, I have really enjoyed this series. I like the plots, I really like the characters, and overall I think they’re a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see where the series goes next.