Other than the absolutely gorgeous cover, the story between the covers (did I already mention they are gorgeous?) is fantastic. Daine (or Veriladaine) Sarrasri (meaning “Sara’s daughter”) goes looking for work with a woman called Onua (no, this woman is not a Bionicle). She goes among Onua’s herd of mountain ponies (telling her own pony, Cloud, to stay and wait for her outside the pen) and almost instantaneously gains dominance over them. She convinces them to do what she and Onua want, and so Onua hires her as her assistant. One reason I like this book so much, is because it’s mostly centered around animals, and Diane really wants to learn how to heal animals, that want is a virtue as far as I’m concerned….. and she does learn how to heal them later. The first example being with a sea otter who broke her paw, the otter later gave her a cleaned sea urchin shell. Which I find entirely sweet…. but back to the part I was at before, traveling on the road…. They’re near a bog, when Diane get’s a sense of….. wrongness…… in the air. Then these bird like figures with metal wings and feathers appear, chasing a black falcon. Onua whistles to call the falcon, but not having enough energy to do that, he dives for cover as the metal-winged figures pause to look for the source of the sound. After losing him, they use a grid like pattern to look for him, but fail. They come towards Onua and Diane, they manage to kill a few, then only one is left. Zanah Bitterclaws. She says she’ll remember their names, and she’ll destroy them, before flying off.
Diane finds a small bird on the ground, and realizes that there are hundreds of birds on the ground around her, and that they were fighting the Stormwings (that is what the metal-winged creatures are called) to help her. She starts crying over the bird she’s holding, then faints. And all the birds that fell, including an owl that Onua was sure had had it’s head half cut off, shook themselves and flew into the air and away. When Diane woke up, she went and found the hawk and put a splint on his wing. As they continued their journey, he wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t drink either for awhile. Finally, Onua called some of The King’s Own. And Diane met Alanna. Alanna had Diane listen for the hawk’s mind, and call him back. And when she did, then there was a man… unfortunatley, he didn’t have any clothes on so Diane was rushed out of the tent by Onua. His name is Numair Salmalin (he has a different name, a childhood one, but he has to keep it secret so the Carthaki’s won’t come to find him and kill him… or something like that). So he’s a mage, one of the only seven “black robes” in existence. Which is pretty impressive. Anyway, he sleeps through a Spidren attack, and Alanna and Diane were only saved from getting killed by the warning of a bat that flew shrieking into their faces, making them jump back. This book is so dang cool, I recommend it….. like all of the other books I’ve posted reviews for. Next review is for the book Fergus Crane by Paul Stewart, illustrated by Chris Riddell.