When Ned and his identical twin brother tumble from their raft into a raging, bewitched river, only Ned survives. Villagers are convinced the wrong boy lived. Sure enough, Ned grows up weak and slow, and stays as much as possible within the safe boundaries of his family's cottage and yard. But when a Bandit King comes to steal the magic that Ned's mother, a witch, is meant to protect, it's Ned who safeguards the magic and summons the strength to protect his family and community.
In the meantime, in another kingdom across the forest that borders Ned's village lives Áine, the resourceful and pragmatic daughter of the Bandit King. She is haunted by her mother's last words to her: "The wrong boy will save your life and you will save his." But when Áine and Ned's paths cross, can they trust each other long enough to make their way through the treacherous woods and stop the war about to boil over?
©2014 Kelly Barnhill. Published by arrangement with Algonquin Young Readers, an imprint of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing, Inc. (P)2014 HighBridge Company
I read this after being absolutely blown away by The Girl Who Drank the Moon, also by Kelly Barnhill. This was nowhere near as good--much less imaginative, much less charming, and didn't pull together at the end (or anywhere along the way, really). Also, the narrator spoke in the exact same cadence and inflection for nearly the entire book, making everything sound sinister even when it wasn't. Barnhill is a great writer but this is not her best work.
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