Princess Teressa has been trying for years to make up for spending her childhood undercover in an orphanage. She works unceasingly to be a good princess, despite repeated kidnap attempts and sneering relations. But then King Andreus's soldiers attack, killing her parents and leaving her on the run. Teressa has to reclaim her kingdom from Andreus, while proving to her power-hungry relatives that she can rule. It's a tall order, but Teressa is smart and self-possessed, and she has a great group of friends. While she fights on the battlefield and for social rank, Tyron, Prince Connor and Wren quest to find a spell to defeat King Andreus.
Teressa is a great character, and this book contains her ruminations and realizations in regards to physical strength, physical discomforts, and being royalty. Hereditary rule of a feudal society is a hard thing to reconcile with a thoughtful and ethical mind, and Teressa struggles with her newfound leadership. Meanwhile, she also wrestles with her newfound attraction to Prince Connor. He is her mother's younger half-brother, making him her UNCLE. I just couldn't bring myself to root for a romance between a man and his niece, so that whole subplot fell flat for me.
These books are a lot of fun, mostly due to their well-developed characters and interesting world-building. The plots themselves are a little simplistic, particularly in regards to how the main villain is dealt with. Time and time again, he slips away. And even after he kills multiple friends and relatives of the main characters, their idea of attacking him is to tie knots in his clothes. (I am not joking. Wren sneaks into his castle to get a magic book and, finding his rooms unguarded, decides the best idea is to short-sheet his bed and tangle up his clothes. Wren is a teenager at this point, so she reads as distrubingly short-sighted and immature instead of wacky and light-hearted.) But this is partly what I like about the books so much--as in the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, the characters are troubled by the prospect of killing. They seek ways around it, through compromise, weather magic, and illusory defenses. I'm glad they don't immediately resort to murder to solve their problems, but I don't think Smith has yet figured out a reasonable and responsible way to deal with villains like Andreus.