She was wild and unpredictable and maddening, but he loved her, all the same. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever met. One day he would kiss her mouth, even though she would probably slap his face. One day he would tell her that he loved her….
Warning: humongous, unabashed spoilers.
2. Hem of Pellinor and Zelika of the House of Il Aran, The Crow.
The Chronicles of Pellinor is a series of four books that read like the spiritual successors to The Lord of the Rings. It has a very Tolkien feel to it, yet at the same time they are vividly unique, and rich in a variety of culture that Middle-Earth never had. The main character is sixteen year-old Maerad, fated to cast down the evil Nameless One before he can cover all of their world in darkness, but the third book, The Crow, centers on her twelve year-old brother after they are forced to flee their separate ways.
Hem is taken to the city of Turbansk far to the south, to enroll in the School there in hopes that he will be safe as civil war breaks out in the north. Like Maerad, he is a Bard: in-universe something like a mage, although there is far more to Bardic ways than magic. Unfortunately, Turbansk is soon threatened by the Nameless One’s army. The city is evacuated, but Hem stays behind to aid the healers while under siege.
It’s then that he meets Zelika, a girl his age who fled the razing of her home and came to Turbansk in hopes of fighting alongside their army. Her entire family, immediate and extended, was killed, and she’s possessed by her desire for revenge. Hem’s relationship with this volatile, emotionally vulnerable girl is rocky at first, but as they journey together they come to form a deep bond.
Hem literally goes through hell for this girl when he believes she’s been captured to become part of the Nameless One’s child army, disguising himself and willingly joining in an attempt to find her. It’s there that he realizes he’s in love with her, even while subjected to all the brutalities of their training camp. He escapes weeks later only to be told that Zelika is dead, that she was killed instead of being taken to the army … that all he went through was for nothing.
I can’t even explain to you what a sucker punch her death is. Croggon has a gift for writing characters that worm their way into your heart, and I loved Hem and Zelika together. Their story is heart-wrenching and poignant, and cut too short.