by Shannon Hale
third of The Books of Bayern focuses on a character who provided comic
relief in both Goose Girl and Enna Burning. Razo, the short and slight
forest lad with the expressive face and the upright-sticking hair, has been
chosen as one of Bayern's Own - the 100 personal bodyguards of King Geric -
and apart from his friendship with Queen Isi, no one knows why. He isn't a
good fighter with the sword or javelin. He can't win a fair wrestling match.
All he seems to know how to do is eat, make jokes, and get into trouble. He
has scars all over his body to show for it. And yet, when Captain Talone
announces his hand-picked team to accompany the new Ambassador to Tira, Razo
is one of them.
Even Razo comes to question this decision during the gruelling journey to
the Tiran capital city of Ingridan and the tense, volatile weeks after their
arrival. Some in Tira are unhappy about the end of the late war with Bayern.
There are groups in Ingridan who want to go to war again. Some of them will
try using assassination to get their point across. Everywhere Razo turns, he
seems to be running onto the point of a knife or getting himself attacked by
Meanwhile, someone is leaving a trail of charred corpses lying around in
places that throw suspicion on the Bayern delegation. Razo shares these
suspicions, knowing that another member of their mission - his friend Enna -
has the magical gift of fire-speaking. She has burned people in the past,
though only during the war. Could she be burning again?
Razo investigates this mystery, he gradually recognizes his own gifts that
make him valuable to the diplomatic mission. Razo is a deadly slingshot, a
capable spy, and in some ways a more effective ambassador than the Lady
Megina who officially speaks for Bayern. He befriends the city's strange,
lonely prince. He engineers a change in local fashion and public opinion. He
spots clues no one else would notice. And against all odds, funny little
Razo becomes a dashing hero in the eyes of a young Tiran lady with her own
strange secret to protect.
If you read the first two Books of Bayern, you may have spotted Razo as a
character who seriously deserves to have his own story. Here it is, with
bucketloads of danger, mystery, intrigue, and action - and a generous
serving of romance. Everything Razo does, says, or thinks will endear him to
you, from the moments of levity he is always ready to provide to the
troubled thoughts and soul-searching he does. You'll think you're cheering
for the underdog until he discovers (and you with him) what he is capable
of. And when you learn that Razo plays a major role in the fourth book in
this series, titled Forest Born, you will surely add it to your wish-list.
Recommended Age: 12+
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