Kaya's parents are both Barrons who are trained to fight against the evil Graplars that are trying to take over Tril, but Barrons are forbidden to marry. Each Barron is soulbound to a Healer at birth, but after her parents' Healers died, they fell in love and ran away to live among the Unskilled, where they have raised Kaya. After Graplars attack their village, Kaya receives a notice from the Shadow Academy that she WILL come and be trained as a Healer... or else her parents will suffer for their treason. When she arrives, Kaya is given a guard, Maddox, who is supposed to keep her safe and also away from the Barron to whom she will be bound. Her soulbound Barron died, and Healers can be reassigned, in Kaya's case to the attractive, kind and very skilled Trayton. Kaya is not unhappy to be bound to Trayton, but she does chafe against the Protocol that Healers can't be trained to protect themselves, and also the prejudice that Healers are subject to. She also is intrigues by Darius, an Unskilled who trains student to fight with the Katana. Since Darius is a rule breaker, she asks him to help her train after Trayton refuses. It's good that he does, because Graplars (giant blue monsters who eat humans) are getting into the grounds of Shadow Academy and attacking students. Kaya finds herself torn on many fronts-- she likes both Trayton and Darius, she wants to fight but doesn't want to have her parents suffer from her misbehavior, and most of all, she wants to be a Healer but doesn't want to be considered a second class citizens. The ending of this book has a lot of unexpected twists, setting the stage for book two, Soulbroken.
The plotting on this was brilliant; I was able to give a synopsis to my children without having written any notes. Teen girls will ADORE the love triangle-- one hot boy that you HAVE to be with and another one that you sort of WANT to be with. And maybe should be anyway? Good stuff. Readers of Graceling, Alanna: The First Adventure and other kick-action heroines will enjoy this, and it's middle school appropriate, shirtless hot guys aside.