Harper Voyager. May 2020. 432p. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9780062888563.
Gr 8 Up–Told in the alternating voices of Lark, Veran, and Tamsin, this book combines an era of stagecoaches and horseback riders with elements of ecology, court intrigue, and even two kidnappings. With a nod to the legend of Robin Hood, Lark is the Sunshield Bandit, who rides the barren Alcoro landscape, robbing slavers’ wagons and trying to reunite bonded children with their families. Veran is the son of nobles from the Silverwood Mountains, a talented diplomat who nevertheless feels inadequate compared to his family, and hopes to make a name for himself conducting sensitive political negotiations in Moquoia. Tamsin, a truth teller, has spoken out against slavery, earning her the respect of Moquoia’s new Prince Iano, but the ill will of others. When Tamsin disappears, the Sunshield Bandit is blamed. A map helps keep readers oriented as Lark rides the canyons, Veran investigates blackmail, and Tamsin scratches clues on the walls of her cell. Martin’s use of invented language takes some concentration to comprehend, but the imagined Moquoian culture that highly values colors and the rainbow is just one of her creative touches.
VERDICT Part futuristic Western, part mystery, part fantasy, this first in a duology has hooks for readers among several genres. Consider for larger collections.

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