By Paula Volsky. There is a torture scene near the end.
I am of two minds about this book. On one hand, it obviously owes a lot to A Tale of Two Cities for the overall plot and flavor of the setting, but on the other hand the characters are original, distinct and interesting. Eliste is a spoiled privileged child of the upper classes of her country, but she is also a naive and sympathetic character, even though by page 10 it's obvious she'll have to grow up. Her grandmother is stern and proud, but stands by her convictions; her "uncle" (really a great-great uncle or something along those lines) is kind, but solitary and a bit fanciful. Aurelie is flighty and lacks any concept of personal honor, but is hard to call bad; I suppose she serves as the grandmother's foil with regards to convictions.
The plot, as mentioned, is inspired by the events of the French Revolution. Eliste departs her father's home near the beginning to visit the capital, and is eventually engulfed in the reign of terror caused by the growing civil unrest. In addition to her personal struggle, we get a picture of the other people involved in the revolution, including two of the revolutionary leaders, opposed to each other's ideologies.
Eliste is a surprisingly vulnerable character, for all of her supposed Exalted status; magic is not only rare and difficult in this world, but it affects her drastically, there being little she can do to fight it, back cover notwithstanding.
A pretty good book with interesting characters (it's hard to know what to make of Aurelie), with a plot reminiscent of A Tale of Two Cities. Whether that's a good or bad thing is for you to decide, I guess.