Neryn is a Caller and can talk to the Good Folk (fairy people) but her gift is illegal, making her a both a fugitive and reluctant to use her gift to overthrow their King. Neryn is a fugitive, on the run with her father looking for work when her father gambles her away in a game of chance to a stranger. Fleeing the scene with her new owner, Neryn watches her father and others burn to death in the chancy-boat when the king's Enforcers set the boat on fire for the Cull--a seasonal reminder that their King Keldec is all powerful.
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Broken hearted, Neryn follows her mysterious companion and is wary of his motives, why would her accept her as a wager if he had no use for her? She learns that he goes by the name Flint, but her refuses to give her more information about himself, instead asking her about her travel plans. Neryn decides she wants to travel north and when Flint leaves her behind at camp to "attend some other business," she runs.
She heard rumors that there was a resistance brewing in the north, a place called Shadowfell in the mountains, and now completely on her own, with winter and the Cull coming, she knows it is the only safe place for her. During her travels, she encounters the Good Folk, fairy people who fear the king and his power. Red Cap, Sage, Long Fingers, Silver and Sorrel are some of the creatures that choose to help her, showing Neryn where to catch fish and giving her a pair of shoes. The Good Folk are divided and seek a hero to kill King Keldec and bring peace and prosperity back to the kingdom. They help her on her travels even as she witnesses an execution at Silverwater brought on by the Cull, triumphs or magical beings, avoids the king's Enforcers, sings to ghosts for safe passage and faces a fierce brollachan.
Flint reappears as a king's Enforcer, and when Neryn becomes sick with a fever, he hides her and helps her get well again, though it takes weeks. Despite his affiliation with the Enforcers, Neryn continues her journey with Flint, even when the Good Folk tell her not to trust him. Flint confides in Neryn that he is a spy, working with the rebellion against the king and he promises to get Neryn to Shadowfell safely, so she can use her gifts for the rebellion.
Flint leaves her alone for a day and Neryn meets an old man who turns out to be the Master of Shadows and master of the Watch of the North. But when Flint returns and reveals that he can alter the minds of people, Neryn flees, distrustful and sickened by his uncanny ability.
Alone, she stumbles upon the rebellion, led by Regan, who is waiting to ambush the Enforcers whom Flint is leading to their camp. During the battle, Neryn uses her power as a Caller to save a man's life by getting help from a stanie mon-a stone being. Her skills earn her instant acceptance by the rebels. Again Reunited, Flint and Neryn join the rebels and Flint is able to explain how and why he came to be a spy and why he must sometimes act as an Enthraller and mess with people's minds. Neryn forgives him, but stays at Shadowfell where she thinks she can help the most, while Flint leaves the rebels haven to go back to court and spy for King Keldec.
Sage makes a final appearance and warns Neryn that she has much work left to become a master Caller and save her world.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like the complex morals and decisions that Neryn and Flint have to make. Nothing is as it seems, and friends are hard to come by, but the friends that Neryn does make are true AND interesting, they keep the plot alive.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when Neryn first learns the extent of her gift. She is on a narrow path, with sheer rock on either side, and trapped by Enforcers. In desperation, she speaks a rhyme to the stanie mon and is enveloped by the rock and hidden from her pursuers. She has a moment of panic, and must overcome her fear to come up with another rhyme asking the stone creature to release her.
Opinion about the main character:
I enjoy her stubbornness. Even when she was sick and alone, she kept pushing herself on her journey o reach Shadowfell. Her distrust of others was merited, but she didn't let it rule her every action, letting her learn to open up and accept friendship and help.