I adored Crown Duel and the Inda books, so I was eager to read more Sherwood Smith. These two are YA reads that deliver trademark Sherwood Smith royal fantasy. Delicious stuff, and great summer reads.
A Posse of Princesses is as light-hearted and fun as the title implies. It's a great fairy-tale/princess/adventure story that plays with fairy tale and princess stereotypes and gives us not one but several different kinds of strong female characters (some of them can handle a sword, but that's not the only way to be a heroine, is it?). Princess Rhis finally gets to leave her boring mountain kingdom because a neighbouring prince is having a big party to pick his future bride. Great excuse for lots of high-school-style drama (except with gowns and servants and castle stuff, so, you know, way better!) and political intrigue, and no one does this better than Smith. Then there's a kidnapping, so, adventure. But really it's all about Rhis discovering friendship, confidence, love (as opposed to infatuation), and maturity. Enjoyably fluffy but with Smith's trademark well-developed characters and moral centre so it feels more substantial.
Blackberry-peach cobbler (freshly-picked blackberries—you should still have the scratches on your arms—and peaches from a fruit stand, as local as possible, the tiniest bit of sugar, dash of vanilla, and simple biscuit topping. Eaten warm with blackcurrant cream gelato (because I had some in the freezer).
Lhind the Thief is a little more serious: lots of fast-paced adventure, and still a YA sensibility, but Lhind is a deeper, more mysterious character. She doesn't know who she is, she only knows she can't trust anyone, must hide her differences or risk imprisonment or death. When she does get captured she has to learn to work with people who may actually be worthy of trust, but who have their own agenda. There's a Norsunder-level bad guy* (these books aren't set in Sartorias-Delas like Crown Duel and Inda, but they might as well have been; the world feels very similar**) and some realistic character development as Lhind tries to figure out who the good guys are and whether she's one of them. The cover for this one seems to be copying Megan Whalen Turner's Thief series, but this book ranks up there with Turner's books, so I have no problem with the homage!
Cardamom-spiced apple hand pies. I just made that up, because it seems like something Lhind might have nicked from a market stand, but it sounds really good, so I think maybe I'll try making some! (And there's even a recipe out there already.)
I think it's hard to find paper copies of most of Sherwood Smith's books, but you can get the ebooks on Book View Cafe.
* ie: super powerful creepy wizard-type
** I was quite sure one of the characters in Posse was Marloven.