Northlander: Tales of the Borderland, Book One -- Meg Burden

I admit it.  I didn't expect much from this book because I judged it by its cover.  I looked at it*, almost dozed off, and picked something else up.  But when I finally picked it up -- I kicked myself for waiting.

NorthlanderThe story follows Ellin Fisher, who is visiting the Northlands with her father.  She leaves the city to gather herbs, comes back later than expected and runs into a major problem:

The new guard glances at my face and then looks away as though the sight of me is distasteful.  Typical Northlander, I think.  Blond, with an arrogant set to his shoulders, probably wanting to spit at me just because my hair is Southling red.  "Pity," he says after a moment.  "The gates are now closed.  You're in for a chilly night, Southling."

For a moment, I can only stare at him in disbelief.  "It's hardly my fault I'm sixteen and don't have papers yet!"  I exclaim at last, "You don't understand; I have to take--"

I clamp my lips shut, catching myself just in time.  The last thing I need is for him--for any Northlander, except the college physicians-- to know what I was doing out in the forest.  If either of these guards knew I was gathering supplies to help my father heal their stupid king, getting locked out would be the least of my worries.

That was what did it for me.  From that moment, I was hooked.  I think it was "stupid king" that did it -- not only did I want to learn more about the situation, but it made me like Ellin. 

I was surprised, over and over again, by plot twists and character development and changes in perspective (both the characters' and mine) brought about by learning more and more about the situation.  As I enjoyed the surprises so much, I'm not going to talk about what happens.  But I will say that there is a newly-discovered talent shared by unlikely allies, a big battle, a group of traveling outlaws, the birth of a horse, and some time spent in a dungeon.  It's a story that deals with prejudice, but also with the reasons behind it and the ways that people can overcome it.

I'm very much looking forward to Book Two.

*After having actually read the book, I do understand what they were going for.  There is a gate into the Northlander city, it is integral to the plot, and the Northlands are snowy and cold.  But... but... does it have to look so boring?  The book isn't boring AT ALL.  I read it in the car, even, which always makes me sick:

Me:  Ooog.  I feel awful.
Josh:  Well, maybe you shouldn't be reading in the car.
Me:  WHAT?  But I want to know what happens.  ...  I think I might barf.
Josh:  That's it.

A minor scuffle ensues, but I manage to hold onto the book as he's distracted by, you know, driving. 

Five minutes later.

Me:  Ooog.  I feel awful.