I think Mella and I are kindred spirits as both our first books took place in a similar setting: the medieval times where there are fictional kingdoms, but it isn't fantasy as no magic is used. Instead, you have the story of Nia, the daughter of a powerful king, who has a talent for healing. Whereas her father is seemingly always at war, Nia is a healer by trade.
The book opens when one of the kingdom's conquered by Nia's father makes a unique offer: the fourth son of the conquered kingdom (named Garreth) will become Nia's personal guard--whether Nia wants it or not. Much of the story is about the relationship and friendship between Nia and Garreth, but not in the way you would expect. Nia is betrothed to another, Andras. who she sincerely loves--at least as much as a 16 year-old can understand of love.
Both Nia and Garreth have several layers to their personalities--something I enjoyed. There is the constant struggle of duty verses what the heart wants.
The book itself, simply titled Nia, has several twist and turns, and I found myself really having no idea where the book was going, which is a good thing. Through all the various actions and dramas that play out in the book, it never loses the focus that this book is about Nia and her journey.
As for any recommendations for the author? There were a few minor formatting and editing things here and there--nothing major. But as I discovered with my first edition of The Hidden Sun, people can get hung up on those. (Side note, the second edition of The Hidden Sun, re-edited is due out summer of 2011, so it can be done)
The only other suggestion was the cover. If I understand what the Mella was going for, it was to indicate that this was a story that takes place in a kingdom, but the picture is almost too blurry (there is a more technical term to use here, but I'll stick with blurry) that is could give off the wrong impression of how sharp the writing is inside the book.
So, who would like this book? I'd say the demographic it leans towards are those of the female persuasion, perhaps 13 and older. The book has very little language (really none), and the romantic scenes and violence that is a part of life in times like these could have been much more crude. Overall, it is a safe read.
The book can be purchased here.
Once again, bravo to Mella Reese on writing such an enjoyable book under what most certainly must have been very trying times in her personal life. I tip my hat to you.