Patricia Briggs' first novel is back in print, revised and updated, but at heart the same story she told seventeen years ago. It stars Aralorn, an unconventional heroine, who escaped from her sheltered upbringing by becoming a mercenary, then a spy, which she is very good at thanks to her shapechanger mother. But when she's sent to spy in the master mage's - ae'magi - castle, following rumours of an assassination attempt, no amount of green magic can prepare her for what she finds.
The handsome, kind, charismatic ae'magi is the opposite of what he seems. But no one will believer her. As the ae'magi's spell spreads out across the world, Aralorn is in increasing danger. Until she finds a place where others know the truth. A young king, a band of peasants, herself and Wolf - a mysterious masked mage she'd known for years, mostly as a yellow-eyed wolf - might not seem much in world saving terms, but Aralorn is determined to try. And with secretive Wolf on her side, nothing can go wrong. Can it?
Briggs does high fantasy in wonderful style. True there are clichés galore abounding here - super powerful mages, talking animals, a deposed king, an evil baddie, shape-changers, a normal girl with not so normal powers, secrets, spells and even spirits - but that's what fantasy is all about. Rare indeed is an original tale from this genre, but who cares when the story is well told and the characters are good?
Aralorn (no, not Aragorn) is a spirited heroine, loyal and brave, and smart too. She's full of folktales and stories, and knows just how to handle the skittish, moody Wolf. He also makes for an interesting hero, with his strange magic and dark past. It's fascinating to see him change throughout the story, and always with Aralorn in mind. They make a good pair.
True, the ending is a bit haphazard and too convenient in places, and I do think her other high fantasy novels are better, but this is still a thoroughly enjoyable read that revels in its origins. Can't wait to see where Wolfsbane