The Naming, by Alison Croggon
Presented as a translation of an ancient legend, The Naming is epic fantasy at its most classic. The Dark (working for what someone else forces you to do) threatens to extinguish the Light (working for what you hope for and believe in the depths of your heart) in the ancient civilization of Edil-Amarandh. Cadvan, a magically gifted Bard, believes that sixteen-year-old Maedra is the One who is Foretold to defeat the Dark. He finds her living wretchedly as a slave nine years after she survived the destruction of her home of Pellinor.
Eager to leave her life of slavery, Maedra and Cadvan embark on a long and dangerous journey during which she confronts enemies and realizes her special gifts. On this journey, Maedra finds her little brother, Hem, who she thought had been killed. They must separate at the end of The Naming, as Maedra continues her quest in The Riddle. Hem’s story is taken up again in the third book, The Crow. In the last book, The Singing, brother and sister are reunited for a final effort against the growing power of the Dark.
The edge of danger never lags in this series and the evil ones are plenty scary. The characters are complex and the line between the Light and the Dark is often blurred. Maedra is strong-willed, intelligent, kind, brave, and temperamental. Because of the strength of her character, this series has been well-liked by the middle and high school girls in my classes, but boys who are avid fans of fantasy have also liked it. The protagonist is a teenager and as such there are some themes of romance and maturing development, but these are more implicit than explicit. Though this series has been compared to The Lord of the Rings, I think it is a slightly easier read and could be appreciated by younger, experienced readers also.