I've been a fan of this book - and the author - for many years.
Harry is one of the earliest girl-with-sword, now so prevalent in fantasy literature, aimed at young adults.
She doesn't start out with said-sword, but does begin with an unconventional attitude and upbringing, one which makes her unexpected transition to girl-with-sword easier, for both her and the reader.
With nods to Kipling's The man who would be king, this combines aspects of the British Raj with fantasy.
Now, you can read plot summaries all over the place - so, I won't bother :D.
McKinley's Damar/Daria is entirely believable. Harry's character works within the social setting, as does her background of small rebellions against societal norms.
As always, McKinley's language is gloriously descriptive. You can feel the heat and the sand, and hear the battle cries.
The growing relationship between Harry and Corlath is beautifully understated, and real. The glimpses of Aerin are tantalising - and make reading her story, The hero and the crown, a must at the end of this.
I have a great deal of love and affection for this book, to the extent that I re-read it annually. (As I do, with a few other McKinley books.)
Now, having given that heart-felt endorsement, how could I do anything other than recommend other McKinley's... First up, of course, The hero and the crown. For a darker, sadder, tale, try Deerskin. On a different tangent, there's The outlaws of Sherwood (a Robin Hood tale). Her latest, Chalice and Pegasus, is also worth hunting down. Then, there's the fairy tale books... (which really does include Deerskin): Beauty and Rose daughter; Spindle's end (possibly my second-favourite of her fairy tale ones, behind Deerskin). Dragonhaven is a rarity, as it features a male main. For older readers, ie adults, her vampire tale is completely different to anything else... Sunshine.
And, you should totally visit her site.
Reviewed by Aud Selene.