I didn't really know what to expect when I started The Messenger. All I knew was the synopsis sounded intriguing and I just had to read it, and I'm so glad I did!
Set in a fantasy world, Jeilin, from a very young age, always wanted to be a Messenger, and to ride across the country delivering messages, warrants and orders on behalf of the King. She sees a life of excitement, challenges and adventures. A life that means an escape from marriage, cooking and raising kids, as her mother thinks she should do. An opportunity arises and soon she's competing with 200 other men for a chance to join the Kings Messengers. After she wins she's paired up with the only other female messenger and together they start Jeilins on-the-job training. Soon she presents her first message to a young prince who catches her eye. But he also sees her as more than just a farm girl. He sees a young woman who's brave, strong and courageous.
Jeilin’s thoughts of Prince Raihnin are put aside as another journey means another message has to be delivered. Only this time it puts her in peril. A war that was not foreseen erupts after twelve years of peace and Jeilin is in the middle of it and right where the most danger is.
From the start of the adventure my excitement grew. I couldn't put this book down. I just had to find out what happened next. Jeilin's character also grows so much in this story. She's got guts to start, she clearly isn't a sissy girl but she's young and you can feel her intimidation when she's in a group of men who laugh at her, such as the tavern scene. She knows she's earned her place as a messenger but she's still a little afraid or even naive about the true dangers of the job.
A character who I loved was Olwen, Jeilin's older female trainer. She allows Jeilin to come into her own and make her own decisions. She never offers unnecessary advice when it comes to matters of the heart, especially when Prince Raihnin is concerned. She's experienced in her work but knows when to keep quiet. And although initially I thought they wouldn't get on I'm glad I was proved wrong.
But the real stars of the book are the horses, especially Fringe. If you're a horsey person you'll love this and it’s plainly clear that the author has a strong bond with horses. The descriptions almost ensure you're able to smell the saddles, bridles and feel the horse’s movements as you ride with Jeilin and Olwen across the plains.
The story sweeps over towns, cities, kingdoms and near oceans. The harsh life of the Ryelnish soldiers really affects Jeilin, not to mention the nasty tattoo she soon wears with shame. The tension towards the end increases as war is at its most aggressive and I almost held my breath in places such as Olwen and Cai being left behind, and Cai and Jeilin heading back behind enemy lines for the final assault.
This is a stand alone book and certainly one of the best I've read this year. And I'm absolutely sure I'll want to read it again soon!