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Inda    by Sherwood Smith order for
by Sherwood Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Having thoroughly enjoyed Sherwood Smith's YA series - like the Wren trilogy and the Crown Duel duo - I looked forward to reading Inda with enthusiasm, and was rewarded by the realization that this introduction to a remarkable new world and its engaging characters is only the first in a series. In Inda, the author takes us through prince Indevan-Dal's childhood, exile, and painful coming of age.

Inda grows up in Tenthen Castle in a land ruled by the Marlovans, whose children - of both sexes - are trained in the arts of war from an early age. As the second son of the rulers of Choraed Elgaer, Inda is expected to one day defend the castle, and it's considered his elder brother Tanrid's duty to train him in war and toughen him by regular beatings. Even at a young age, Inda is clearly a brilliant strategist and a born commander. The book opens on a war game between the castle's boys and girls, led on one side by Inda and on the other by his best friend - also his betrothed - Tdor, who's fostered at the castle. One day, Inda is unexpectedly summoned by his mother Fareas-Iofre and learns that the King has ordered all the second sons of his year to the academy in the royal city of Iasca Leror, for training in field command - meaning that war is on the horizon.

The King relies on his younger brother the Sierandael, to lead his armies and run the academy. The Sierandael - who bears a grudge against Inda's family - thinks little of the King's studious younger son Evred (nicknamed Sponge) and has decided that, for the good of the kingdom, Sponge should be put aside for a more stalwart supporter of the vicious and brutal heir, the Sierlaef. Under his uncle's orders, the heir works to sabotage his brother, and orders his followers to attack anyone Sponge befriends. This leads to a great deal of trouble for Inda and the new band of friends he builds around himself and Sponge. But he has allies too, in particular his elder sister Hadand who, as the heir's betrothed, lives in the royal household. Hadand trains Inda in the Odni, the women's method of combat, that teaches them 'To strike once. Fast, and final.'

Then one of the Sierlaef's ploys gets out of control, a friend of Inda's dies, lies are told, and Inda blamed. For the good of the kingdom, his father and the king secretly send the boy into exile at sea. Though miserable and homesick, Inda adapts and learns this new environment, where his inborn talents serve him well through a variety of challenges and adventures. This first episode ends in a gory cliffhanger for our hero, while betrayal and tragedy strike at Tenthen. This is a world of engaging characters, complex politics - including the presence of the Montredavan-An family, who 'produced the first real Marlovan king, and now were exiles on their own lands' - and of ghosts and mages, whose roles, minor so far, are sure to grown. I look forward to more with great anticipation.

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