For information on the book's conception see the Shannon Hale wiki's article.
Razo has never been anything but ordinary. He's not very fast or tall or strong, so when he's invited to join an elite mission escorting the ambassador into Tira, Bayern's most recent enemy, he's sure it's only out of pity. But as Razo finds potential allies among the Tiran, including the charming Lady Dasha, he realizes it may be up to him to stop a murderer and get the Bayern army safely home again.
- Razo: Despite his belief that he has no valuable skills, especially compared to the other members of Bayern's Own, Razo is chosen to be a part of the ambassador's escort to Tira. He struggles to prove his worth by trying to discover the identity of the murderer who kills victims by burning.
- Enna: A gifted fire-speaker who burned an entire tenth of the Tiran army single-handedly during the war. She volunteers to go to Tira in an attempt to prove that she can make use of her talents without being destructive.
- Finn: The best swordsman in Bayern's Own and one of Razo's closest friends. Stoic and trustworthy, Finn does what he can to keep Razo out of trouble and soothe Enna from her memories of the war.
- Dasha: The daughter of the ambassador of Tira, she volunteers to be the liaison of the Thousand Years Palace, where the Bayern stay during their mission.
- Talone: The captain of Bayern's Own. Talone handpicks the members of the ambassador's escort, including Razo. When the two discover burned bodies, they are determined to find out who the murderer is before Tira votes on the matter of restarting the war with Bayern.
- Lady Megina: Bayern's formidable ambassador to Tira. She is determined to successfully prevent a resurgence of war, no matter how many assassins try to stand in her way.
- Ledel: The Tiran captain. He is fiercely respectful of the rules of war and is so strict, none of his men dare to do anything without his permission.
- His Radiance: The carefree prince of Tira. He has no real power and doesn't even have a real name, yet the people of Tira adore him.
- Isi: The queen of Bayern. She is best friends with Razo, Enna, and Finn, and is reluctant to let them travel to country they had so recently warred with.
- Geric: Isi's husband and the compassionate king of Bayern, who is also close friends with Razo, Enna and Finn.
Awards and Honors
- Voted by young readers across the US as a Teen's Top Ten for 2007.
- A 2009 YALSA Popular Paperback for Young Adults.
- Nominated for the ALA's Best Books for Young Adults.
- A St. Louis Post Dispatch Best Book of 2006.
- Wilde Award, best sequel 2006, The News & Observer.
- A Booklist 2007 Top 10 Fantasy Books for Youth.