This is an innovative prequel to "The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone", a book I read to my daughter earlier this year. This was our bed-time reading after that book, and if anything I enjoyed it more than the first.
In this story, two children of about the same age who are growing up in one of the many small kingdoms and empires of the same realm as the first book. It is, however, some fifteen years in the past. One child's an orphan, the other is growing up in an orphanage, and they meet shortly before the Whispering Wars break out. Visited by some extremely inconvenient time-travelers, they find themselves plunged into the thick of things.
Now, it might be easy to imagine that a story featuring two twelve-year-olds might be a rather low-stakes affair when it comes to the safety of the protagonists. But: POW camps, starvation, incompetent leadership, malignant bigotry, violence, humiliation, class warfare, and puberty await these kids and it ain't pretty. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and found that my interest in seeing the head of the boarding school die in a grease fire was eclipsed by a resolute need to first see the king of the Whisperers come to justice. But, we don't always get what we want.
Aside from the great content and the great characters, I enjoyed the evident relish with which the author told the story. Everything - and I mean everything - worked with an airtight realism and taut authenticity. At the point when a captain of one military is practically in tears, begging an opposing faction to cease their advance... Or when you realize that the slavers will let the children starve to death - if the cold doesn't take them first; well.
One of the really interesting choices in the story-telling is that the kids write the chapters in their own voices. The girl attempts a certain refined tone while the boy dispenses with all that and just deals it as it is. I quite enjoyed reading these two voices to my daughter. She doesn't like it when I try my Walken or my Palpatine or my pirate or when I wander around modern accents but she's OK with my adapted-Herzog I can sneak in a young boy and a young girl.