BRIGHTLY WOVEN by Alexandra Bracken

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Sydelle has spent her whole life in a desert village in Palmarta where a drought has left her community impoverished for over a decade.  But when the king of Palmarta is poisoned, their life is plunged into chaos.  The government blames the neighboring country of Auster, which responds to the allegations by preparing for war.  But a young wizard arrives in the village naming a different culprit: the malicious hedge wizard Dorwan.  With the invading army at their doorstep, Sydelle’s parents sell her to North as a guide, hoping that the wizard will keep her safe, and the two vanish, leaving the rest of the village to become hostages of Auster.   Sydelle is determined to lead North to the capital as quickly as possible, believing that the sooner they inform the Queen of Dorwan’s treachery, the sooner a truce will be called and her village released.  But Dorwan is not going to let them succeed without a fight, and Sydelle soon learns that North is hiding some terrible secrets–and both of their lives may be at stake.

I saw this book on a display and thought “that author has the same name as the RA in my freshman dorm….” And then I discovered that she is the RA from freshman dorm and even began writing this book while in college!  Go Tribe!

I really enjoyed this book, and thought it was particularly great for a first novel.  The world building was pretty cool.  She kept with the medieval high fantasy vibe while replacing knights with wizards and barbarian hoards.  The heroine does spend most of the book as a pawn, but she gets herself together in the end and takes some control/action of her own, so that was relieving.  But because the heroine takes so long to live up to her potential, it fell short of what I consider to be the greats of teen high fantasy (The Blue Sword and Alanna/Song of the Lioness).  But it is better than many teen fantasy novels where the “heroines” tend to be pawns or lovesick groupies for the entire story.  I do hope that she someday writes a sequel, because after Sydelle’s growth and transformation in this first book, I think she is going to become a very interesting and influential player in the future events of her world. . . .

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