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In the peaceful realm of Tequende, all second-born children at the age of fifteen must journey to the Alcazar to fulfill the mandate of the Oath of Guilds. There they train to earn a place among the queen's legendary Second Guard, or work as indentured servants.
Talimendra has always wanted to join the Guard, but there are dark rumors in the realm that she may not be ready for. Rumors that whisper of greed, traitors, and war.
There is very little time and too many unanswered questions, but one thing is for certain: if there is a traitor among the Second Guard, then everyone-including the queen-is in grave danger.
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J.D. Vaughn is the pen name of Julia Durango and Tracie Zimmer, two friends who are also writing partners. Julia is a former school librarian from Illinois and a winner of the Golden Kite Award. Tracie, a high school English teacher from Ohio, received critical acclaim and the Schneider Family Book Award. Together they share a love of travel, reading, chicken biscuits, and the teenagers who call them Mom.Review:
In the matrilineal monarchy of Tequende, when second-born children reach the tender age of 15, their families must surrender them to be trained as the mightiest soldiers in the land, known as the Second Guard. Talimendra Sanchez Kalloryn of the Sun Guild is one such recruit, sworn to uphold the Oath of Guilds to serve and protect the queen at all costs. Fellow recruits Zarif Baz Hasan of the Moon Guild and Chey Maconde of the Earth Guild join her to forge an earnest triumvirate supporting one another as fledgling warriors, up to and including their challenges at the Final Tournament. This realm's setting has a colonial Mesoamerican sensibility, with one city called New Seville and a small immigrant population of Arabites from the Far World. Socially, the Sun, Moon and Earth Guilds correspond to merchant, intellectual and working classes, each with its own culture and rituals. Tested via multiple, layered moral and ethical dilemmas that have modern resonance, Tali swings between moments of confusion ("What is true if everything I've been taught to believe is false?") and mildly subversive clarity ("Sometimes disobeying orders is the only way to follow them"). Vaughn is the pen name for Julia Durango and Tracie Zimmer, and working together, the two writers prove to be competent worldbuilders, cleverly introducing each chapter with a page of background out of a fictitious Tequende history book. A carefully crafted and empowering coming-of-age tale that adds welcome diversity to the fantasy shelves. (Fantasy. 11-14) Kirkus"
Gr 7 Up Talimendra has turned 15, which means it's time for her to leave her family to train for the queen's guard or, failing to qualify after the training, to work as an indentured servant until turning 21. This is a requirement for all second-born children in Tequende, a peaceful land surrounded by those who would seek to conquer it. Tali's mother, now deceased, served on the guard, and Tali wishes to do the same. She makes new friends at Alcazar, the training location: first with Zarif, of the Moon Guild, and then his roommate Chey, of the Earth Guild. Tequende society is divided into three guilds, each a reflection of one of the deities that the people worship, each encompassing certain trades and occupations; to make friends across the guilds is rare. Tali is of the Sun Guild, and her father was a trader. The protagonist is used to the noisy, colorful people of her guild and finds the intellectuals of the Moon Guild and the farmers and miners of the Earth Guild somewhat difficult to understand. Having friends from these groups helps her to see the similarities among them, not just their differences, and she becomes aware of the bigotry in her society as well as her own biases. Vaughn captures the discomfort of the teens' hard training along with the bonds that form among those who are suffering together. There is also intrigue-the three friends realize that there is a mutinous plot involving some of the highest ranking officials in the land. Each chapter begins with a section of text from The Rise of Tequende: A History, which lends an air of authenticity to the setting and also helps readers absorb the history and culture of Tequende. VERDICT Teens will cheer for Tali and her friends and appreciate the rich setting in this well-written and engaging fantasy. Kathy Kirchoefer, Henderson County Public Library, NC SLJ"
This fresh fantasy from Vaughn (a pseudonym for writers Julia Durango and Tracie Zimmer) imagines a South American civilization that was never destroyed by European incursions. In prosperous Tequende-where the customs and rituals of the mercantile Sun Guild, intellectual Moon Guild, and laboring Earth Guild underpin a structured society-families must send their second-born children to serve as soldiers or servants when they turn 15. Talimendra Sanchez Kalloryn of the Magda River Traders is eager to prove herself in the Queen's army, along with her friends Zarif, an "Arabite" of the Moon Guild, and Earth Guilder Chey, who is aware of inequities the others are not. As Tali's training intensifies, she begins to see clues that the queendom may be flawed beneath a seamless surface, and that treachery threatens the throne, the Guard, and the integrity of Tequende itself. The narrative benefits from excerpts from a contemporary history of Tequende that open each chapter, and although the detailed worldbuilding slows the pace somewhat, this is a promising start to an innovative fantasy series. Ages 10 14 PW"
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