Title: The Keeper of the Mist
Author: Rachel Neumeier
Keri lives in the little kingdom of Nimmira (exactly 378 miles of border), which is surrounded by mists that hide it from the wizards to the north and the warriors to the south. And although Keri is the daughter of the current Lord, no one is more surprised than she when the mysterious magic that governs the country chooses her to be his successor. She was intending to spend the rest of her life running her bakery. Now she needs to learn to rule a kingdom and learn its magics, and fast—the mists are failing, and Nimmira has caught the attention of both its neighbors . . .
I liked the worldbuilding a lot in this one. Here, ordinary rules of succession are subverted, as it’s the magic that does the choosing for who will be the best ruler (although it is true that person still has to be in the bloodline of the traditional monarchy). Keri knows she ought to have the power, particularly when she ascends, but she has a hard time figuring out how this relates to the supremely important boundary mists and how to stop them from going down. I especially liked the posts that go with Keri: in addition to the Lady (or Lord, as the case may be), the land assigns a Doorkeeper, a Bookkeeper, and a Timekeeper. (And I would dearly love to be either a Doorkeeper or Bookkeeper. The ability to open any door, anywhere in the kingdom? Or the ability to just turn and reach for a book and the exact one you need is right at hand?)
I also really liked the characters. Keri is young and inexperienced in leadership, but she’s got maturity and a level head. I really liked Cort, who accidentally ends up her Doorkeeper. He’s overly responsible and serious, and not someone Keri initially appreciates, but he’s dedicated to his position and his country the same way she is. More, I think. She’s willing to put her life on the line, but he’s the one who actually does in multiple instances. I liked how the story shows both the good and the bad of his type of personality, pointing out that if he’s extremely hard on others, he’s hardest on himself. And the Timekeeper was also amazing—somewhat spooky, with powers that have the least definition but also the most intriguing impact.
Where I think the book suffers a bit is that by nature of the magic, Keri and the rest are bound to Nimmira itself. That wouldn’t have to be a problem except an important piece of plot moves beyond the boundary, and then we get a great deal of planning for how to resolve this without any of the key characters actually doing it themselves. Things go sideways anyhow, but it did underline the inherent limitations of the setup.
I do hope for a future book in this world, as there were enough open questions to leave plenty of room, but the overall story does tie up well enough even if no sequel ever materializes. I rate this book Recommended.