Monica Hughes’ 1985 Sandwriter is the first entry in her Sandwriter duology.
Princess Antia of Kamalant has led a pampered life. Her parents are dead (of an accident, it is said) but she has been carefully raised by King Rangor (her uncle) and Queen Sankath (her aunt). Her immediate retinue includes doting nurse Nan and tutor Eskoril (whom Antia finds most attractive). Her childhood has been pleasant.
Now the bill for that childhood has come due.
Antia is summoned to an audience with the king, where she is introduced to Lady Sofi of Roshan. Antia is informed that she is to accompany Lady Sofi on a trip to distant Roshan. Suspecting that she’s to be married off to some noble in backward and poor Roshan, Antia refuses to go. Well …
Once she arrives in Roshan, she discovers that the country is every bit as poor as she had feared. It’s a harsh land and the inhabitants must be hardworking and thrifty to survive at all. And, as she suspected, she is to be married.
The man she is to marry is Lady Sofi’s son Jodril, the heir to the chieftainship. The pair get off on a bad start when Jodril assumes that Antia is just another dancing girl. Eventually they find something on which they can agree: Jodril doesn’t want to marrying a spoiled foreigner and Antia doesn’t want to marry a desert prince. There is nothing to be gained by being unpleasant to each other, so they do the polite tolerance thing.
Antia solaces herself by writing long, longing letters to Eskoril, her former tutor and her current pash.
Jodril takes Antia on an expedition into the countryside. Being a spoiled foreigner, she disregards useful advice and wanders off into the desert, where she is caught in a sandstorm. Oddly enough, she survives. And has some interesting experiences INSIDE the storm.
She is clearly a person with a Destiny, even if the exact nature of that Destiny is not clear (to her or to Jodril’s family). They decide to show her the secret treasures of Roshan, which would otherwise be forbidden to foreigners.
She tells Eskoril all about it in her latest letter.
It seems that Antia’s Destiny is to betray Roshan.
Huh. A creepy SFnal romance between a teen and her much older tutor, which the author clearly recognizes as creepy.
In Antia’s defense, she was raised to be naïve and easily manipulated, which is why (among other things) she doesn’t understand why Queen Sankath always changes the subject when the conversation touches on the nature of the alleged accident in which Antia’s parents died.
To most of the people around her, Antia is merely the means to an end.
But she has a Destiny, even if it’s only to set a betrayal in motion and then survive the failure of the betrayal. She may be an ignorant tenderfoot, but her would-be manipulators are even more ignorant. Which is all to the good for Roshan.
Perhaps the second book in the series is more engaging. This volume was something of a disappointment.
Sandwriter does not seem to be available from Amazon but Chapters-Indigo offers a recent edition.