Synopsis from Amazon:
What if you weren’t what heroes are made of? What if your life was an open book? What if you were just an ordinary soldier, with ordinary skills and ordinary goals? What if you weren’t “The Chosen One” but still had to try to save the world? “A Spell in the Country” is the story of that soldier – a young woman driven not by prophesy, but by circumstances and coincidence, and by the strengths and weaknesses that anyone might possess. Lured into treason and only narrowly escaping the gallows, Keridwen was desperate to build some kind of life for herself. But between demons bent on death and mayhem, treachery at the very heart of the kingdom, and a prince who had every right to nurse a grudge against her, what were the odds that she could stay out of trouble for long?
It's a high-fantasy adventure full of medieval kingdoms at war, and the narrator is the spunky-yet-perfectly-ordinary young daughter of a high-ranking nobleman. What more do you want?
To be honest, I did assume the story would be generic, with the old-man advisors and the horses and the soldiers and the royals who get to do whatever they want. What I did not expect was the story to begin with our narrator being tried for treason and very nearly executed for her crimes against the crown, however inadvertent—
But that's what I got, and THEN the adventure began!
Keridwen is a noble's daughter, but she has been trained as a soldier from a young age. She gets posted to lead a troop in guarding the most remote, backwater outpost in the realm—but if there is any significant reoccurring theme in this book, I would have to say that it is "Nothing is ever what it seems." A nobleman's daughter is a capable military captain, a backwater outpost hides a terrible secret with implications that could very well mean the destruction of the entire continent, and magic comes into play where you least expect it.
I loved it, once I got past the confusion and politics of the first few chapters! Once I really got to know the characters, once I was oriented with the lay of the land, I was deeply hooked into the story and there was nothing else for it. Smith really makes the ordinary something extraordinary! Kerri makes a pretty entertaining narrator, with the scrapes she and her brusque, impulsive manner get her into! The cast of characters she encounters prove wonderfully diverse: from Sorcha, the "large and in charge" woman who basically runs the town of Penvarron, while the Duke who actually holds the position loves to dispense orders under the illusion that he's having any kind of effect at all; Prince Tirais, a young man full of his own importance and constantly at odds with Keridwen, since his mother wore the crown her superior had committed treason against; Cioren, a mysterious man from a bygone age who is on a first-name basis with the queen—and so many others. I enjoyed getting to know them, I was delighted with the story that unfolded, and I am definitely eager to explore more of the Averraine Cycle!
It is with great pleasure that I bestow upon this wonderful, unassuming book a full *****5 STAR***** rating, and add that it comes Upstream Writer Certified Highly Recommended as well! If you enjoy unexpected tales of twists and turns you don't see coming, with characters in circumstances ranging from dumb luck to very-near-prophetic predestination, and a heartfelt cast of characters that will burst to life in your imagination, you just might consider spending A SPELL IN THE COUNTRY.
Further Reading: (Medieval Fantasy/Ordinary Heroes/Female Leaders)
-Girls Can't Be Knights--Lee French
-Puck's Choice--Skye Hegyes