Source: Bought from library sale
Back Cover Blurb:
Born into hardship, Dar learns to rely on herself alone. When her family betrays her, Dar is conscripted into King Kregant's army and his brutal campaign to conquer a neighboring country. Now she is bound as a slave to a dreaded regiment of orcs, creatures legendary for their savagery and battle prowess.
Rather than cower, Dar rises to the challenge. She learns the unique culture and language of the orcs, survives treachery from both allies and enemies, and struggles to understand a mystical gift that brings her dark, prophetic visions. As the war, escalates--amid nightmarish combat and shattering loss--Dar must seize a single chance at freedom.
I guess I'd call this "dark fantasy" since there is little hope throughout the book. It's also not a book I, personally, would give to anyone under 15 years old. The book clearly implies, though never actually states, that Dar was raped repeatedly by her father and both Dar and a young girl come very close to being raped on several occasions. While most of the sex, rape, brutality, and killing occur 'off screen' and none of it is explicit or gratuitous, the horror and danger of her surroundings is nearly unrelenting.
Understandably, Dar doesn't trust men and doesn't really like them. I was a bit turned off by the apparent "all men are scum" message but, near the end, it becomes quite clear that Dar doesn't hate all men--just the ones that really are scum.
That being said, all of the characters were very interesting and realistically drawn. The story was suspenseful, and the world-building was excellent. Overall, I'd call this "a good, clean fun" novel for grown-ups.
Excerpt: Chapter One
Dar walked alone down a mountain path, bent beneath a load of firewood. The trail she followed hugged steep rocky walls that blocked the morning sun, so the air and ground still held the night's chill. Nevertheless, she walked barefoot and wore only a tattered, sleeveless shift with a rag to cushion her shoulders. Dar moved quickly to keep warm, but the sound of a distant horse stopped her short. None of her neighbors owned one, nor did anyone in the tiny village beyond the far ridge. Only strangers rode horses, and strangers often brought trouble.
Dar listened. When the hoofbeats died away, leaving only the sound of wind in bare branches, she continued homeward and arrived at a hollow devoid of trees. Its stony ground had been prepared for spring planting. At the far side of the hollow lay the only building--a rude hut, built of rocks and roofed with turf. The horse was tied nearby. Dar was considering leaving when her father's wife emerged from the low building with a rare smile on her face. The older woman called out. "You have visitors."
The smile heightened Dar's wariness. "What kind of visitors?"
Dar's stepmother didn't respond, except to smile more broadly.