John Dickinson, author of The Widow and the King, is the son of Peter Dickinson, who is married to Robin McKinley. That's the main reason I pick up his books, actually. He writes well enough to be read in his own right, but that's a big shadow he stands in.
Both title characters in this book are there because of their parents. Even as children, men follow them from loyalty to their family. It's a good book to look at the nature of hereditary aristocracy with; why should power pass to children? The boy has some claim to magic talismans, perhaps magic affinity, but the girl has only her parentage. Is that enough?
Dickinson tackles big issues; loyalty, betrayal, courage and what to do when it falters, responsibility to one self and to others, religion, feudalism. His characters start out weak and immature, even for their ages. That was hard for me, since I do tend to prefer characters I admire, and I don't get many of those in this book. The boy doesn't listen to his mother, which makes things very hard for him, since (of course) she was right. ALWAYS. The girl stays selfish and blind about love; she never questions whether she has the right both to the loyalty of those around her and to pick her lover only for her own pleasure. By the end both kids have grown up and faced some tough decisions and responsibilities, and the magic of the world addresses these issues directly and spookily. I'll be looking for the third book in this series, as the writing and depth of character are enough to make me push past my rather childish wish that the characters I want to like be better than they are. B