Firstly I must apologise if this opinion seems biased towards only the good points of this book - I can't help it as this is my favourite book ever. Generally I am not into fantasy books but for this novel I make an exception. This is the first in a series of four books all telling the tale of Veralidaine Sarrasri (known as Daine to her friends). At the beginning of the book we meet thirteen year old Daine, a feisty and stubborn girl who has a sad and mysterious past. Along with her pony Cloud (a mare who seems to understand Daine better than some humans), she is taken under the wing of Onua who is a horse trainer in the city of Tortall. And so the story begins... There are many characters in this book whom you cannot help but adore, the mage Numair Salamin, King Jonothan and Queen Thayet, and the many animal friends which Daine makes on her journeys with the riders. We see Daine learn respect, hope (as she meets the Lioness, a great warrior who is a Woman!). She also learns to find and give love to other people that she though she would never be able to give again. You cannot help but go through every emotion with Daine, Tamora Pierce creates one of the gratest characters I've ever known - she is by no means perfect, but she has a heart of gold and a will of steel. Please do not miss this book, even if you have never really appreciated fantasy novels before I assure you that there is something for everyone here and I guarantee you'll be looking for the sequels as soon as you finish it!