"Discipline. It was the most important word in Willow's vocabulary." This is the opening line of one of the best fantasy books I've read all summer, and I read a lot of them. The story begins with Willow, an elf and Captain in the King's Guard, and who is in the service of the royal family of Bryanae. Willow's life has taken a sudden turn for the bad, and it's about to become even worse. She is beset by problems she has no control over, and no matter how much discipline she applies to the situation, it keeps spiraling out of control. She's attracted to Captain Snyde, an arrogant man she despises but whom she inexplicably desires against her own wishes. To top it off, she refuses to admit she is in love with Private Tamlevar, a good, decent man who is in love with her and whose loyalty to her is unswerving.
From moment of the opening line, the action begins, and it is nonstop up to the final page. Willow is unfairly demoted, her despised mother shows up and Vazerian, the prince she is supposed to be guarding, gets kidnapped and she is frozen in place, unable to stop it, leaving her open to accusations of cowardice. Those are the better parts of the week. Willow's life as she knows it over, and all the discipline she has spent her very long life developing can't keep it from going to hell. Terribly injured and now on the run, only discipline keeps Willow from completely breaking under the onslaught of bad luck - discipline and Private Tamlevar who has insisted on following her.
Ultimately, Willow finds herself risking her life for the country which had turned its back on her, choosing to attempt to rescue the kidnapped Prince of Vazerian, even though she no longer has any authority. Willow's quest to save the prince takes her to the last place she ever wanted to be, and in the process she and Tamlevar discover what really happened, both in the past and in the present and who is really behind the death and destruction of everything and everyone Willow ever loved.
I am glad to say, I suspected all along things were not as they appeared with a certain character, but the final revelations took even me by surprise. As I said before, this is a complex tale of action, reaction and the repercussions actions taken frequently have.
Add the relentless action to the emotional roller-coaster which runs through all of Willow's and Tamlevar's adventures and you have tale which is incredibly intense and which completely captivated me. This is most definitely a five-star adventure, the sort I am always looking for but only rarely stumble upon.