The Magician of Hoad – Margaret Mahy
On the bloody ground of a battlefield, in a city of tents, a peace is being written that will change the land of Hoad forever. In this place a mad prince will meet his childhood ghost, a Hero will face his failure, and a damaged young magician named Heriot Tarbas will be swallowed into a world of power and deception. Heriot can see unsaid thoughts and bring life to his dreams, but the unpredictability of his gifts leave him vulnerable. No one is what they seem, not even those to whom Heriot is closest, but no one holds a greater mystery than the broken halves of Heriot himself.
Mahy had one of the most distinctive writing styles I know. Her language is brilliantly colourful, bright with metaphor and imagery, conjuring up vivid scenes and eccentric, unpredictable characters. The Magician of Hoad is, unusually for her, set entirely in an alternative, semi-medieval world, where challengers fight to the death for the title of Hero and white-faced assassins watch over their glittering king. From a slightly slow beginning it builds to unexpectedly epic proportions. With a crown in the balance and friends forced to take sides, there is no predicting its twists and turns. It is intended for a YA audience, but anyone who loves Mahy will find her magic here.