BLURB: “Princess Malva of Galnicia is beautiful, idealistic and very wilful. On the eve of her arranged marriage, she escapes the palace and sets sail for Lombardaine, unaware that a much more terrifying ordeal lies ahead. Orpheus is the young man sent to bring the Princess home. Thoughtful, rational and stubborn, he is as determined to return Malva as Malva is to be free. But there are far greater powers at work, steering these two towards the boundaries of the Known World, and beyond”
REVIEW: I first read this book when I was about twelve or thirteen and have often returned to it over the years; sometimes it just feels like the right time to return to the comfort of an old favourite. This book had everything I loved at thirteen and everything I still love now – danger, adventure, fantasy, travel and, of course, a dash of romance. Princess Malva escapes the palace after being humiliated by her father and betrothed to a much older man with the help of her maidservant, Philomena, and the guidance of her old tutor, the Archont. The Archont is not all he seems, however, and as soon as Malva and Philomena have fled he proceeds to hunt them down and make their lives as difficult as humanly possible. The two women are eventually separated and Malva ends up trapped in a harem with very little promise of escape – until the arrival of Orpheus Mcbott, who is looking for a mission after the recent death of his father. Orpheus and Malva soon become the heads of a rather mismatched but extremely loveable crew, and each of these characters easily work their way into the reader’s heart – there is Babilas, the mute sailor tormented by the loss of his lover; Lei, a girl whom Malva befriended in the harem; orphan twins Peppe and Hob, who were stowaways on Orpheus’ ship; Finopico, the slightly crazed but very talented cook and fisherman; and Zeph, the loveable St Bernard who once sailed the seas with Orpheus’ father. Together the crew face many dangers and fears, crossing the boundaries of the Known World and fighting off numerous enemies. Although parts of the last hundred pages of the book are truly, truly heartbreaking (you WILL cry), it is completely worth it to read a book that is the true definition of escapist fiction.