I actually only bought this book because it was very cheap on Amazon, so i wasn't really expecting much from it. From the blurb, I was expecting magic and romance - basically a rip-off of Robin McKinley's The BLue Sword.
I will be the first person to admit that, yes, I was wrong.
The storyline for this book is fantastic, and it wasn't really a cheap rip-off of The Blue Sword, some of the aspects are the same; the main character is taken by a desert population and becomes one of them, but the way they are executed are different.
I loved the characterisation. Xylana is a strong character, strong enough to give herself up as little more than a slave to save her people. What I loved about the way Xylana's character developed is that she already had a trade; healing. In many books, our lead will just suddenly learn a new skill and be fantastic at it, whereas Xylana's trade has come from years of practice. She isn't a spoiled brat, like many female leads are, while she can be whiny (the end of the book :( ) she is also strong and determined. I liked this. Her love interest, Keir, is lovely, strong and kind but with a temper, he will kill anyone who tries to harm his Warprize, he is the complete opposite of what I expected from a Warlord but I liked it that way. I also loved the way their relationship progressed, it was slow, but not too slow, and it didn't take over the whole book. There was other things going on.
There is a very entertaining set of side characters, from Joden and Simus, two fighters who take Xylana on and help theach her the way of their people, they crack plenty of jokes and serve as a sort of comic relief, to Marcus, who plays a Mother Bear role, and cares for Xylana, reprimanding her when she misses meals, which is quite funny.
If I had a problem with anything at all, it is Xylana's half brother Xymund, who is the ruling king of Xy. I couldn't understand why he disliked his sister enough to lie to her about what she would be to the Warlord. I do with Vaughan had better developed this plot as I'd like to be able to understand his behaviour a little better.
I have to point out right now that this is not particularly suitable for young people. There are adult scenes in it and while they are not particularly descriptive, if you don't want to read some sex scenes, don't read this book! I am 17 (18 in 11 days!!!!!) and had no problem with it, but it's really about what you are comfortable reading.
Overall rating: A -
Stand alone/series: First in a series
Released: October 31st 2005 (Paperback)
Publisher: Tor Books
Book obtained via: Bought!