The inhabitants of Wilde Island are in an uproar after the death of King Pendragon, especially as Arden, the eldest prince and heir to the throne is off on a Crusade. Ruling in the Prince’s absence, Lord Sackmoore has imposed higher taxes on the populace and unleashed Lady Adela, the royal witch hunter to seek out those “corrupted” by evil. With the kingdom in turmoil, the longstanding agreement between humans, dragons and fairies is breaking down as hunger drives people into the protected reserve known as Dragonswood. Although humans are not supposed to intrude, seventeen-year-old Tess escapes her abusive father by slipping into the trees of Dragonswood.
When the witch hunter fingers and subjects Tess to torture, she allows the names Poppy and Meg to slip out thus putting the lives of her best friends in danger as well. After a narrow escape, Tess, Poppy and Meg flee the village and begin life on the run only to discover that as bad as things were at home, remaining hidden while getting enough to eat is a constant struggle. Though Tess is hesitant to accept his help, the lives of her friends rest with Garth Huntsman who offers food, shelter and time to heal. Before long Tess discovers Garth has his share of secrets. When her mother reveals the key to Tess’s true identity, it begins a series of revelations that will completely change the course of her life but only if she has the courage to face her worst enemy.
Though written for the young adult market, Carey’s enchanting tale will appeal to readers of all ages. Tess is a compelling character as she struggles to do the right thing, often in the face of overwhelming odds. Identity issues crop up forcing Tess to reevaluate who she is and what allegiances she owes her father. Garth provides a nice love interest while the dragons prove to be deeper, more thoughtful creatures then typically portrayed. Lots of action, smooth storytelling and excellent character development make for a very enjoyable read.