Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Pam Brondos
Natalie Barns goes to Sister Barba and discovers that she must return to Fourline and sever the head of the Nala monster who infected her. Sister Barba finishes Natalie's training and Nat goes back into Fourline as a full Sister. Nat, Soris, and their friend Annin find and behead the creature, but in doing so, they awaken the Nala Queen. When Natalie returns to the Healing House, she recognizes a woman in a painting as the crazed person that she met in the capitol's castle on her first visit to Fourline. This means that Estos' sister, the deposed Queen, is alive but under the control of an evil man known as The Chemist. Nat, Soris, Annin, and others set out to free the Queen. They succeed, but lose a member of the rescue party. Natalie now has a price on her head from The Chemist and a vengeful Nala queen in constant pursuit, which increases the threat to everyone. Natalie returns to college, but leaves her heart in Fourline with Soris.
Natalie has great determination and courage, which combine with her conviction of right and wrong to make her a good role model for young women. She has her fair share of faults, which make her relatable and cause readers to root for her even when she is headed steadfastly and stubbornly in a questionable direction. Her romance with Soris is wonderfully restrained and sincere. They have a strong physical attraction but hold that secondary to the qualities that they find attractive in each other and the duties they are balancing to family, king and country. This is a refreshing take on romance, relationships, and what love really involves, particularly their desire to sacrifice for each other if necessary. The plot is well written and fast-paced. The characters interact in meaningful and consistent ways, maintaining their personalities and creating excellent tension amid themselves and the plot and each place in the story. Many elements of the story follow familiar archetypes in an interesting and well-written pattern. It isn't new, but it is well done and is a very enjoyable read.
*Contains moderate violence.