Scent of Magic by Andre Norton
Willadene works in a slovenly tavern and yearns to be free of her indenture and to instead work for the Herbmistress Halwice. Her sense of smell is acute. Willadene can identify herbs and spices by their scent. She can identify the mixture of substances by scent. She can identify people and their passing by their lingering scent. She even can identify the smell of pure evil.
When escaping the tavern one morning, she runs to the herbal shop. There she finds the Herbmistress and an unknown man paralyzed by a spell. She is quick witted and quickly discovers how to get directions and is able to break the spell before they are discovered. The Herbmistress promises to help Willadene.
Duke Uttobric is the ruler of Kronen after a plague kills most of the royal family. Now, to secure his claim from others further removed in the line, he arranges for his daughter, Mahart, to make an advantageous marriage. There are perils around. The most dangerous is from his distant cousin, Lady Saylana and her son. Fortunately he has a trusted chancellor who is able to assist him as he tackles his unexpected role.
This fantasy novel pulled me in immediately. The first few chapters with the set up of the magic of smells and scents is well drawn and exciting. The end of the novel works well, too. Unfortunately, the middle of the novel is lengthy and plodding. I read it, and enjoyed it, but it was too easy to put the book down and go on to something else. At one point I put it down completely and read another book before I picked it up again. I like Norton’s work. This one may rate another reading when I am not so distracted.