The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier is a fascinating historical fantasy loosely based on King Bridei I of the Picts in the sixth century (author's notes can be found on her website).
Bridei was plucked from his mother at the tender age of four to be trained by Broichan at Pitnochie. Broichan, the Druid and adviser to the king, trains Bridei in history and self-control, while others in the household teach him self-defense, archery, and other useful skills.
One night while Broichan is away, Bridei comes across a strange basket with a bright child. Knowing this to be a gift from The Shining One, Bridei takes in the child and works a hearth magic charm to convince the rest of the household to keep her. By the time the Druid returns the charm has taken hold and it is too late for him to abandon Tuala.
Over the years, Bridei and Tuala grow close; however, their paths soon lead them on separate paths. While Bridei is off to war to prove himself as a man, Tuala is sent away from Pitnochie to become devoted to the Goddess. The longer Bridei is away from Tuala, the more he realizes he needs her for her wit and companionship. As the pressures of court close in, Bridei becomes more desperate. Somehow Bridei and Tuala must both escape their fates to make their dream become reality.
Like the other novels I've read by Marillier, her prose make reading quick. Marillier researches the history to create a realistic environment with additional fantastic elements. The interactions and relationships between characters are realistic and she conveys emotions effectively without becoming overly detailed. This is another brilliant work from the author.
Books in the series:
Blade of Fortriu
Well of Shades
Recommended Reads by this author:
Daughter of the Forest