This book is a 2007 Science Fiction & Fantasy Cybils Award Nominee.
It is only when the gate is closed that Southlander Ellin lets her frustration erupt. Fury overflows as she glares at the barred gates. What are these Northlanders so afraid of, anyway? One skinny Southlander girl can't come into the city, even though she makes it back before curfew just because she's a red-haired Southlander. Fuming at the injustice, Ellin prepares for a night in subzero temperatures.
She was outside the city gates gathering herbs for the Northlander king, whom her physician father cannot cure because he's not allowed to touch him. Who calls a doctor but won't let him touch the patient? Ellin is fed up and sickened by the Northlander prejudices, tired of being edged away from in the street, tired of being spat at and ignored as "Southlander trash."
A second chance at getting into the city -- and then into the palace -- places Ellin in the position of using the particular Southlander magic she's been taught. She's not able to use it in the way her father would have, and she's frantic. The King of the Northland cannot die on her watch! Ellin and her father pull the old King through, but his reward is to make her father dungeon guests of the Northlanders -- her father, forever, herself, only until she turns sixteen. Their escape -- with the assistance of the princes, who know what they owe her -- only places Ellin and her father in further jeopardy -- at home. What has happened to the Southland Ellin knew and loved?
A deadly encounter with the Guardians leaves Ellin stranded. Now nowhere is home, and nowhere is safe. Northland or Southland, what does it matter? Ellin only wishes to stop running. But... how much is safety worth? Is she willing to betray her beliefs for a kingdom?
Readers will love Ellin, and be on the edge of their seats at the choices she must make. A taut and suspenseful tale from new author Meg Burden, this is a hugely satisfying beginning of the Tales of the Borderlands series, and readers will be anxious to read more.