After her mother and grandfather are killed and her home and village destroyed by bandits, 13-year-old Daine has to find her own way. Her skill with the bow and her knack of working with animals help her to find a place working with the royal horsemistress, Onua. By the time they have brought a herd of ponies into Tortall, Daine has shown she has more than just a knack with animals — she really has a sort of wild magic. As she makes friends and slowly finds a new family of various people who care about her, she also tries to learn how to (sort-of) control the magic she has and how she can use it to make a difference in the kingdom. It will be just in time, too: magical creatures who have been absent for centuries are returning and danger is just on the horizon.
This book has so much going for it: likable, strong characters; a kingdom where women and girls get to be knights as well as wives and mothers, where the rulers are down-to-earth and benevolent, where everyone gets schooling. Animals have a big part to play in the story, and Daine interacts with all sorts of species regularly.
There’s plenty of old-fashioned action and fantasy elements. I happened to listen to the audio book version of this and really enjoyed the full cast of voice actors bringing the story and characters to life. And it’s a clean read, appropriate for almost all ages.
Rated: Mild, for elements of peril and danger and some violence. It doesn’t get too gory or detailed, though.