This is a story that starts where it should: in the middle of the action leading up to the incident where the main character’s life is changed forever. Combine this with the wonderful character of Hyla, the heroine, and we are drawn in right away. So much that we are quite happy when the events that led up to this beginning are revealed in a series of flashbacks throughout the story. Hyla is so concerned about her pal, Fingers, that we can’t wait to find out what happens to him.
This book contains great deal of world building and a whole lot of getting-to-know-you with the main character and her new life. Fantasies often start out with a character being removed from his or her normal milieu. The character learning the new setting is a wonderful excuse to reveal that world to the reader, and develop the personalities as well. However, there needs to be an underlying development of the real conflict, the greater world conflict, and in this story it takes too long. It isn’t until Chapter 24 (Out of 34) that we switch to the POV of one of the villains, and that conflict takes off. It is Chapter 25 before the greater political conflict starts.
Until that point the tension is upheld by flashbacks to Hyla’s struggle for life in the gutter and her present difficulties in learning her new life. This sort of introductory conflict is good for about Chapters 3 through 6 in most books. Then, no matter how interesting the new world and its minor troubles are, suspense flags.
There are also a few rough edges in the writing style that should have been picked up by editors and beta readers:
“Instead of words, her mouth hung open in dumbfounded silence.” I know what the author means to say, but the sentence doesn’t hang together. The question of Troy’s motivation at the beginning of the story and why he was driving the wagon is never answered. Point of view is not always clear and sometimes slithers to other characters briefly.
And a point about dialect. “Ise” and “youse” are great dialect indicators, but I have rarely seen them used in a novel. Perhaps because they are frequently used words, and they do begin to grate on the reader after a while.
Strengths: world building and characters. Weakness: structure and lack of conflict. Recommended for YA epic fantasy fans.(4 / 5)