Modern(ish) fantasy series by William Nicholson, describing the lives of the Hath family and their quest to find the homeland. Consists of three books;
The Wind Singer (2000)
Slaves of the Mastery (2001)
The first book is set in the city of Aramanth, where hierarchy is decided solely on exam results for the age of 2 onwards. Kestrel and Bowman Hath, after being prosecuted by the head examiner, decide to find the key to the Wind Singer,a device in the centre of Aramanth which once made people happy. However, it was stolen and the city fell into depression.Slaves of the Mastery is set a short time later, where Aramanth is no longer ruled by exams. However, the raiders of an empire called the Mastery destroy it and takes all the citizens of Aramanth as slaves. Kestrel is split up, and meets the representatives of a different kingdom, who are heading to the Mastery to marry their princess daughter to their prince son. Eventually, the Mastery is overthrown and the citizens begin to search for their homeland.Firesong is about their journey to their homeland. And without giving away everything, we can say very little else.
Berserk Button: Try to separate Bowman and Kestrel and it won't turn out well for you. Ira Hath will defend any and all members of her family viciously. And let's not forget Pinto's Embarrassing Nickname from back in the day.
Break the Cutie: The first book was beautiful in its childish glory, containing a few disturbing elements. However, childhoods are shredded to pieces from the second book onward and we're looking at some serious Gorn when the Mastery seizes Aramanth, and the manaxa, and the monkey cages, and let's not forget the grand finale. Bowman goes from a timid boy lost in his sister's shadow to the destroyer of the Master's civilisation. Kestrel goes from a rebellious young girl to being the avenger, caught up in what seems like a million unending love triangles. Mumpo goes from a friendless screw-up to a masterful killer. And Sisi goes from a ditzy, sheltered princess to a stern-faced queen-in-exile.
Broken Aesop: Bowman, Kestrel, and their friend Mumpo spend the first book learning that if they work together, they can make things happen and nothing can hurt them. In the book's two parallel plots, the twin's father convinces downtrodden people that they need to stand up and peacefully insist on being given their rights, and their mother makes her views heard and gets the town to listen to her and consider her ideas. Then... the MacGuffin shows up and makes it all better. Or at least makes them happy for the remainder of the book.
Decade Dissonance: The world appears to be quite out of whack technologically. Aramanth is implied to be rather technolgically advanced in The Wind Singer, as does the Mastery in Slaves of the Mastery, yet the primary mode of transportation seems to be horse and carriage, with civilizations becoming ever-more ramschackle and sparse the farther out from Aramanth you go.
Determinator: Kestrel, who often gets by on her stubborn determination alone.
Happiness in Slavery: Despite being taken from Aramanth by force and having several of their fellows brutally burned to death in cages, many of the Manth people choose to stay behind in the Mastery simply because it offers an easier, more peaceful and stable life than travelling the long journey to the Homeland with the others.
Heroic Sacrifice: Kestrel, though only her physical body; her spirit becomes one with her twin brother, Bowman, which may lead one to wonder (only in the name of practicality, of course,) just where her spirit goes when he's getting busy with the missus...
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: By restoring the voice of the Wind Singer and cleansing the Morah's influence over Aramanth, Kestrel, Bowman, and Mumpo inadvertently condemn the city to destruction at the hands of the Mastery.