Rin is the youngest of seven children, the only daughter in her Forest family. She’s her Ma’s shadow, a tree-climber, a great aunt, and her older brother Razo’s (of River Secrets fame) best friend. She can listen to trees, sinking into their consciousness and enjoying the cool, green peace that emerges from them. Then, one day, she’s taken with a local forest boy, Wilem, and convinces him to stay with her and kiss her. Yet, her convincing is something more than simple persuasion: it’s power, it’s a rush for her. And afterward, the trees reject her.
So, she packs up and heads to the city with Dasha and Razo, to become a lady-in-waiting for Queen Isi (of Goose Girl fame). Things seem to be going well, until word comes from the border that a town was burned. Geric goes to see what the problem is and ends up injured. So it’s up to Isi, Enna (of Enna Burning fame), Dasha and Rin — who tags along at first with the group she’s dubbed the Fire Sisters, but is eventually included in their plans — to figure out who or what is behind this latest spurt of violence, and come up with a way to stop it.
This book is an excellent culmination of all the other Bayern books, and not just because everyone from the previous books are in them and playing fairly major roles. No, it’s something more, something deeper than that: it feels like the culmination of ideas and themes that Hale has been exploring throughout the Bayern books: of family, of self-control, of self-interest versus the greater good, and so on.
One of the best things about this book is that all of Hale’s heroines have a chance to shine. Each one, including — eventually — Rin, is powerful on herown; they have a quiet strength about them. They’re feminine, caring, supportive, and yet, when the need arises, fierce and powerful. Put them all together and they are truly forces to be reckoned with. The best parts of the book are when Isi, Enna, and Dasha work together, and then when they realize what Rin has to offer them, they include Rin in their ring of power, where Rin is least comfortable, yet most needed.
It’s possibly Hale’s quietest Bayern book since The Goose Girl. It’s a very introspective, quiet, nature-filled book, something which is a strength of Goose Girl. There is no real kick-butt action, there are no super-awesome heroines (or heroes), there’s not even any real romance. Yet, all of Hale’s hallmarks are there to draw the reader in: from world-building, to descriptive language, to her humor, and (most of all) her ability to tell a whopping good story. Which means while there’s nothing flashy, it’s a good, solid story that will entertain and engage readers.
And, really: isn’t that what we all love about Hale’s books?