After the battles, the heroics, the camaraderie, the deaths and injuries, the gains and losses, after the
WAR, what does the soldier do? For 12 years, Cam Attling fought the invading Uplanders. The fight was in vain, the enemy has now settled in Cam's country, and peace has more or less replaced war. He has
returned home to his parents, twin younger brothers, and a little sister who doesn't remember him. But Cam is no longer the same boy who sallied forth years ago, mesmerized by the beating drums and
marching feet. He has seen the horrors of war. Moreover, he has experienced them: the son of the enemy Lord engaged him in battle and nearly beheaded him. At the last second, he changed the angle of his sword blow and instead cut off Cam's right arm. Rather than hold him prisoner, Cam is sent to a doctor, nursed back to health, and sent home with a fine horse. Why? he asks himself.
In his home village, people must adjust to his disability. His parents excuse him from farm work and
won't use his horse to plow. The father of his betrothed calls off the wedding. And many wonder, why is Cam the only one of our village boys to come home alive? Realizing he belongs neither here at home,
nor on the battlefield, which is no more, Cam returns to the home of the Uplander Lord to determine why his life was spared.
Years pass, and this beautifully written narrative explores the ensuing lives of those whose paths
intersect with Cam's: Gyaar, the young lord who maimed Cam yet spared his life. When Cam returns to seek him out, he becomes Gyaar's bodyguard and friend, and learns of his striking resemblance to
Gyaar's deceased brother, the reason he was allowed to live. His betrothed, Graceful, now offered in marriage to Gyaar, is so different from the Uplanders and struggles to learn the language and the ways of court. Acton, the orphan whose father marched off to war with Cam never to return, is shown protection and kindness from Cam when villagers would run him off the land. Ban, who becomes Cam's drinking buddy and hopes vainly for a deeper relationship with him. And Pin, Cam's little sister, grows up in his absence yet never forgets him and holds out hope that one day he will learn how to return home for good.
This 306-page novel is best offered to older students who will relish the imagery, the complex relationships, and the beautiful turn of phrase.
Recommended by Jane Behrens, Librarian, Iowa