I LOVED this book. Once again, the printed book speaks of such care, such dedication to the entire reading experience. These aren't cheap pages printed on flimsy paper, bound by glue in a mass produced format that's going to disintegrate after a few reads.
It starts with the cover, in green velvet, like the artificial turf on a tennis court. The bookmark, tri-colored strings, is a physical representation of the magical device used by characters in the book -- the tennis strings. They're even woven into the spine of the book, just as the importance of the strings is woven throughout the story.
The pages are thick, edged in deep green, and in the margins decorated with more strings that form an image I couldn't quite decipher, but I imagined them to be the trees from the Forest featured in the story. Or they could be tennis related, but I'm not familiar enough with tennis rackets to say for sure (and I'm a bit abstract image challenged, to be honest!).
The story, by Annie Matthew, was divine. It read so incredibly well, and had twists and turns but was so well thought out.
It begins, like Wizenard, in a dystopia, but in this world the trees near the orphanage where young Legacy Petrin lives were destroyed in a Great Fire. But, no, this isn't a tale of yet another tween living in the worst-orphanage-in-the-world. No, no, Legacy's not not an orphan. Her father is the orphanage caretaker, although her mother did leave them to fend for themselves, and neither knows exactly why. It's an oasis in the midst of poverty and hopelessness, despite Queen Silla's attempts at restitution.
Legacy lives and breathes tennis, and another orphan her age, Van, sees the upcoming national championships as Legacy's way out of the poverty of the fire-stricken provincial countryside. But Legacy learns her father is about to send Van off to work in the factories that refine and the metals and minerals from the mining provinces, and she and he devise a way for her to sneak out and compete for a spot in the national championships.
Armed in a burlap sack outfit, with her warped old wood tennis racket, she finds her "zone," when she glows, and beats a determined girl from the mining province to represent all the provinces in the championships.
She's whisked away to the Academy, where she'll train for a few weeks before the tournament begins.
Queen Silla gives her a tennis racket, a beautiful new thing, but somehow it just doesn't feel quite right in her hand.
All the players must connect with a stringer, the person responsible for making sure the strings in their rackets amplify and reflect the grana, or emotion magic, properly when they play. Outcast Pippa Spago's stringer stone lights up when Legacy plays tennis, and they are matched.
Legacy also manages to convince one of the best "builders," a trainer with a thief brand on his neck, to start training her after she calms a winged horse to help her train.
I won't give away the rest of the story; read and enjoy it as it unfolds. It's a great sports fantasy read, and I'm excited and hope there are more in the series.