The first in a three volume series, this is the story of sixteen-year-old Tamras, who has come to serve the Lady at Merin house, as have all the daughters of her families for more generations than can be remembered. Tamras hopes to become a warrior like her aunts, but first must be accepted by a warrior as her apprentice. Meanwhile, the Lady has assigned her to be the companion of a warrior who is a stranger to their community, a brusque woman named Maara (perhaps from the Hebrew for bitterness) who resists any assistance. Tamras persists in quietly making herself useful, and when Maara is badly injured and the healer leaves herbs to ease a less painful death, Tamras takes over and nurses her back to health. Being the companion of an outsider is a lonely position to be in, yet when the Lady asks her to spy on Maara, her sense of honor doesn’t allow her to do so. When Maara’s trustworthiness comes into question, Tamras stands by her, against her community, and offers her own life as surety. Includes references to both mutual and undesired sexual relationships both heterosexual and lesbian in a sensitive way.
**** Highly recommended for teens and adults.