HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Nov. 2020. 480p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062674180.
Gr 8 Up–In a vaguely European setting, where knights wear cloaks and travel is primarily by foot or horseback, orphaned Gelya has grown up in a convent, aware she is a Vessel: A Daughter with a special gift for singing the Father’s Word. Gelya, freckled, tall, and blonde, as befits her Hedenski heritage, also has a gift for languages. Her services are required in interrogating Tavik, a dangerous Kantari prisoner. The interrogation turns into a massacre, and Gelya and Tavik, a Two-Swords fighter with green eyes and dark hair, must join forces to plot their escape. Gelya is a devout worshiper of the Father, while Tavik glorifies the Mother, giver of life. Now they are on the run together, carrying either a goddess or a demon, depending on the point of view. Modern terms and phrases occasionally jar the eye (bajillion, “smacks him upside the head”), but overall the setting is mud and forest, with tramping armies and tellegs emerging from tree trunks with murderous intent. A sham marriage to throw off pursuers offers awkward and sometimes humorous interactions, before the pair acknowledge feelings for each other. Skin tone is rarely mentioned, except to note those from the South tend to have darker skin.
VERDICT Suggest this fantasy with religious elements to readers who appreciate gunpowder and bird-carried messages over high-tech explosives and instant communication.

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