by Rebecca Tingle
I really identified with Ælfwyn’s character, because she loves to read. She is shy, and is frightened to ride the large and powerful horse her mother gives her. For most of the book, she depends on other people to tell her what to do and where to go, but when it really matters, she makes her own decisions, discovering courage and resilience from deep inside.
I liked the writing style in this book. It really pulls you in to the story, painting a picture of Old England with a few settings, people, and events drawn from real history. I especially liked the scenes when Ælfwyn is on the road, singing her songs and telling stories from her books to entertain the common people.
The plot has plenty of action and suspense, with warriors and battles lurking around the corner in every scene. But the focus is on how this young teenage girl deals with the danger and anxiety, and the subtle influence she exerts over the outcome of those wars. She seems so powerless at first, but her knowledge and intelligence give her power.
One of things I loved about this book is how Ælfwyn manages to take control of her own life choices, without needing to carry a sword or be strong in battle. She remains herself; quiet and bookish, but she begins to command respect from others, and discovers her power to change her life through the words she uses. This is NOT a warrior maiden story. It’s a word-warrior story. Words are her weapons. Her mind is her armor.