Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Julia Golding
For ages 12 and up
Skyscape, 2013   ISBN: 978-0761460671

Tashi grew up on the island of Kai with her family. There she tended the goats and lived a simple life, one suitable for the “insignificant daughter of an impoverished matriarch.” Then, without warning, she was told that she had been chosen to be the Fourth Crown Princess of the Blue Crescent Islands. Suddenly she was “one of the four most powerful women in her world.”

Now Tashi’s life is full of order, ritual, discipline, and duty. It is not an easy life, and she does not feel as if she fits, but she does as she is told. Even when she is told that she must marry a “barbarian prince,” Tashi accepts her fate. After all, it is her job to do what is necessary to safeguard her country.

Tashi is going to be married off to Ramil ac Burinholt, the son of the king of Gerfal. Their union is needed to unite Gerfal and the Blue Crescent Islands against their common enemy, Fergox Spearthrower, the brutal warlord of Holt. Fergox has been claiming the lands around Holt and it is clear that Gerfal is his next target. If Gerfal and the Blue Crescent Islands combine their resources they should be able to protect their lands from the warlord.

Tashi accepts her orders without complaint, but the same cannot be said for Ramil. He is furious that he is going to have to marry “a white-painted shewitch.” Many people are fearful of Crown Princesses of the Islands, finding their ways strange and mysterious, and Ramil is no exception. When Ramil’s father explains that he must do his duty for the good of Gerfal, Ramil storms off in a rage.

Not surprisingly, things do not go well when Tashi and Ramil meet. Ramil is rude and behaves inappropriately. Not knowing any of the customs of Tashi’s land, Ramil and the other people Tashi meets in Gerfal disrespect and insult her at every turn. The young woman decides that marriage to the “uncouth” young prince is out of the question.

In an effort to salvage their relationship, Ramil invites Tashi to go riding with him. Tashi has never ridden a horse before and Ramil makes sure that he chooses a horse for her that is gentle and easygoing. All goes well until he encourages their two mounts to gallop. It is only when he sees the princess’s terrified face that he remembers that she has never ridden before. He cannot believe what a “hard-hearted idiot” he is being and tries to make amends, but Tashi is frightened and furious. She is also determined that she will have nothing further to do with Ramil.

Then, without warning, Ramil and Tashi are kidnapped by a group of circus people. They are placed inside a cage with a tiger and smuggled across the border into Brigard and thence to the stronghold of Fergox Spearthrower.

When they meet the fearsome warlord, the two young people discover that he has big plans for them both. Fergox was the one who arranged for Tashi to be chosen to be the Fourth Crown Princess of the Blue Crescent Islands, and he set things in motion so that she would leave her home and travel to a place where he could get to her. By kidnapping Tashi, Fergox has ensured that the Islands and Gerfal will go to war, and then he will make his move when they are both vulnerable. Ramil will become his puppet in Gerfald, and Tashi will become his fifth wife, once she renounces her faith.

Ruthlessly Fergox sets about trying to force Tashi to set aside her belief in her Goddess, and embrace his cruel and bloodthirsty god, Holin the Warmongerer. Tashi refuses to comply or to give in. In her own quiet way she fights back.

As Fergox’s ‘guest’ there is nothing that Ramil can do to save Tashi for the moment, but he quietly sets about planning their escape. He talks to Tashi and tries to reassure her that all is not yet lost. He tries to keep up her spirits as she struggles to hold onto her faith and hope.

By some miracle, Tashi, Ramil, and their friend Gorgoc are able to escape from Fergox’s stronghold. They manage to stay ahead of his soldiers, only to get captured by another group of armed men. Thankfully, their captors turn out to be members of a resistance movement that is fighting against Fergox. Perhaps there is hope for them after all.

This fascinating and almost addictive story will have readers sitting on the edge of their seats as they turn the pages. The trials that Tashi and Ramil are subjected to are considerable, and we cannot be sure that they will both survive. Nor can we be sure that their respective countries will be able to hold out against Fergox.