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Hidden Warrior    by Lynn Flewelling order for
Hidden Warrior
by Lynn Flewelling
Order:  USA  Can
Spectra, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is a sequel to the author's brilliant The Bone Doll's Twin, in which young princess Tobin grew up disguised by magic to look in every detail like her dead twin brother. This was necessary because her uncle, King Erius (under the influence of an ambitious wizard named Niryn and of a prophecy) was killing all his female relatives.

These events sent Tobin's mother into madness and an early suicide, and eventually the king's paranoia also murdered her beloved father. What I particularly liked about this first book was its fine characterization of people acting with very mixed motivations, some of them performing evil acts with the intent of the long-term good of the kingdom.

Tobin grew up orphaned in a lonely keep, with loving servants and his father's friend Tharin for company, and with Brother, a very angry (rightly so) ghost as a frightening protector. Rough country lad Ki became Tobin's companion and eventually squire, and wizards (ruthless Iya, kind-hearted Arkoniel and hill folk witch Lhel) watched over him, generally from a distance. He was called to court, befriended by his older cousin, Prince Korin, and trained in arms as one of the heir's Companions.

Flewelling portrays the angst of adolescence extremely well from the point of view of a young woman who appears to all around her to be male but knows she isn't. Then the king returns from the wars and Tobin must balance her immediate liking for him with her knowledge of his crimes against her family, and his ongoing campaign to kill the kingdom's wizards, which endangers her protectors. Tobin starts a small secret academy to teach girls swordfighting at the same time as Arkoniel begins to teach young wizards who have taken refuge at Tobin's isolated old home.

Tobin shines as a fighter when the Companions are blooded against bandits. Then disaster strikes in the form of an invasion of the capital. When Tobin is sent in search of help by the king, he encounters treachery from different sources. It is time for him to reveal his sex and to take on a new name. The story ends with two contenders for the throne of Skala - Tobin/Tamir and her beloved cousin Korin, now manipulated by Niryn.

Flewelling gives us a marvellous new fantasy world which combines the usual wizardly and dynastic in-fighting with a unique and well developed concept. I don't understand why this excellent series was not published in hardcover and I can't wait for more.

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