Author: Julia Golding.
Princess Taoshira of the Blue Crescent Islands is appalled when she is ordered to marry Prince Ramil of Gerfal. And he’s not too pleased, either. She is used to a life of discipline, ritual, and splendor. He is used to hunting and carousing. They hate each other on sight. But both of their countries are under threat from a fearsome warlord, and the only chance of peace is to form an alliance.
When Tashi and Ram are kidnapped, they fear there’s no escape–from their kidnappers or from each other. Can they put aside their differences long enough to survive ambush, unarmed combat, brainwashing, and imprisonment? And will the people they meet on their adventure–including a circus strongman, a daring rebel leader, a sinister master of spies, and the best female fighter they have ever seen–help them or betray them to the enemy? (Published Summary.)
The writing style seemed oddly simplistic, leaning rather heavily towards telling instead of showing, including even the classic signs (like excessive ‘ly’ adverbs). However, I enjoyed the actual story and characters. Golding contrasts three cultures, with different degrees of separation – from extremely different to only minor differences – and explores how miscommunication and confusion can create problems and divisions. The romance was quite predictable but all right, and I did appreciate the author avoiding the insta-love trope.
Sexual Content: Some light kissing. “Where I come from, Tashi, men and women bed each other first, then wed when they have children. No one wants a barren wife.” Man tells girl looking for advise that “Kissing is nice. It’s fun. But you must not let him do any more unless you want to bed him.” Several men complain about being strip-searched at a check-point; the women, who went through first, joke that they shouldn’t have ridden on so quickly. “Now eat your food. My grandson will not want a skinny wife in his bed when he gets home.”
Violence: Two characters are seized, tied up, and thrown into a cage with a tiger. (It’s chained up and can’t reach them if they stay to one side.) Girl slaps a man for touching her. Two soldiers are killed (stabbed) within hearing but out of sight of our pov characters. One man strikes another across the face. Prisoner is beaten for trying to escape. Two men fight with mace and sword in some sort of worship ritual for a blood-thirsty god. One of them is killed by a blow to the head. Man strikes a girl several times with a rod, trying to force her to fight back. Warriors spar roughly and practice sword-fighting together. Man knocks out several soldiers with blows to the head. Girl is shot in the leg. Girl knocks several men out with a sling shot. An entire convey of soldiers is ambushed and killed – not very graphic. Altercation between travelers and bandits – four bandits killed. Character jumps into a river rather than be taken by slavers: she’s nearly drowned and very bruised. A different character is overpowered and taken by the slavers. Slave rebellion breaks out – multiple people killed or hurt in a near-mob; it’s a confused, mass-fighting scene.
Other problems: Some drunkenness.