"FLAME OF DESTINY," Colleen Helme, Mundania Press, $13.95, 249 pages (f)

The fiery and stubborn Callista has no real idea of her role in the upcoming battle to save the king, the kingdom and the souls threatened by an evil wizard with a grudge.

She believes she's headed for a career with the palace Elite Guard, a place that can use her impressive skills with a sword and as a fighter.

Soon enough, the first time she's out with a mentor, she's attacked by the vicious shadowbeasts that are invading the city. She finds out she's been betrayed and has to rethink who she can trust.

She's rescued by a ship's captain who becomes more than a white knight to her. She wonders why she's been targeted.

From there, "Flame of Destiny" is a story of intrigue, action and danger as Callista discovers who she really is and what she's meant to accomplish.

The plans of a once-trusted palace adviser are set in motion, with her death a critical part of them. Darkness threatens to win.

Here is a well-written story of a remarkable heroine who is neither shy nor overbold. She is aware of her frailties and of her strengths and advances in a believable, human fashion.

The romance is well-paced, and the elements of evil and good come together in bursts of action that allow the reader to relax for a moment between scenes, something not all amateur writers allow.

There are some fresh additions such as putting the Book of Elements in a safe place and how the shadowbeasts came to be. There are rivalries between characters that explain much of the story. There are unexpected battle developments.

It all makes for a book that's readable and interesting, although the bold typeface throughout is a little bothersome.

Helme has created characters that matter and a story that moves forward in a fashion that allows for some curiosity.

The ending is somewhat open-ended, so it appears there will be a sequel.

Let's hope so.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 30 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com. Email: haddoc@desnews.com