The context of this story is a fictional setting of a civilised people not too dissimlar to the British of the Empire. They come to live in a country originally populated by hill people with a rich history shot through with magic. The native Damarians ask the Outlanders (settlers) for help in defending themselves against their enemies, the demonic Northerners. The Outlanders turn them down, so their leader Corlath kidnaps Harry.

Harry, McKinley’s young heroine, finds herself with no choice but to settle in with the Damarians. She discovers that she shares their unpredictable kelar (magical ability) and goes on to become a King’s rider. Eventually she sets off with two friends to strengthen the Damarians’ defence. In the process, she causes the bulk of the Northern army to be buried under half a mountain. When she returns to the king, he marries her…and they all live happily ever after.

McKinley’s book is quite readable and is not the feminist epic the reader expects at the beginning of the book.  It has just the right mixture of action, romance, friendship and kindness.

Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London.  He also is the editor of the Good-to-Read website.