I dove headlong into this book with the fervent wish that it would live up to expectations after buying it from Booksale without an inkling as to how good (or bad) it might be. Fortunately, it didn't disappoint. Dragons, castles, magic, headstrong princesses and reserved mage-in-trainings: it all screams awesome fantasy adventure and makes for a good read. Although the ideas are nothing new, they had been delivered well. There were instances in her writing that I felt could use a little more polish, as it reminded me of myself when I began writing stories at 12, but it doesn't get in the way of the story. There's card-reading, expeditions, unexplained scary monsters, an invisible cat and one stony-faced mage that is a particular favorite. How can you go wrong?
Kudos to Ms. Knudsen for creating a world with names that won't cost you a uvula and a pint of spit to pronounce. I can't really complain about the world building; we're offered bite-sized bits of history and information that didn't feel like massive info dumps.Characters:
A little gripe I had with this book was that I expected more of Calen's side to the story than Meg's, and that's because it was his name that was first mentioned on the summary. Surely if one were more outstanding than the other, it would be their name on the forefront? Ah, but then I thought, marketing: that guys-will-read-guy-books-but-not-girl-books shtick. And now I feel duped. I should have known better from one of the author reviews (is that what you call those things?) mentioning that it would be perfect for fans of Shannon Hale, whose protaganists are all female. Still, Calen gets a nice little bit of the story from his point of view, although I felt it was hardly enough. But that's just me, anyway.
Meg is a well-rounded character: Her actions befit the status of a person who has never wanted for nothing, and yet her personality veers away from conventional princess behavior. Sometimes though I felt that Ms. Author wanted a princess character who wasn't girlish or liked pretty dresses or sitting still and presented her strong will (which was time and time again pointed out in the book) and stubborness so blatantly that it shoved Calen in the background and tended to make her a tad bit annoying, although that only serves to make her more realistic as a person. Can't like everything about someone, yanno (I mean, come on; slapping a person three times to keep him awake after he just exhausted himself in an effort to save them, and for what? Give the dude a break). It makes me want to read now about a princess who likes getting primped up and has good fashion sense and sewing and dancing and all those 'girly' things and yet can still
Calen is a dear. He's got a long way to go before gaining that right amount of confidence as a mage, but I liked how he became a little more sure of himself after realizing his potential. All in all, the two make a good team. Bonus points for letting them go through a realistic relationship of being friends with each other as opposed to just pairing them up because they're the main characters. What was also nice to see was each character's perspective of the other: From Meg's side, we see her view of Calen as a budding mage who is kind, loyal, and can get in the way of himself. From Calen's, his impression of Meg is a feisty if slightly violent girl who wants to be her own person in lieu of her dragon link.
I was genuinely surprised that Meg would have feelings for another side character, Wilem, because the way these things usually turn out is that both MCs form the main relationship together, be it friendship or something more. I thought it was a fresh take on things, male MC friends with female MC who falls in love with a secondary character and no love triangle involved. But then Wilem turns out to be one of the Big Bads (maybe Small Bads? he did have some plus points after all) and I thought that was a waste, it could have been new and terrific. I wasn't able to spot the boy-courting-female-MC-and-then-happens-to-be-one-of-the-bad-guys myself, but well-versed readers could have probably sniffed it a mile away. Again, nothing new there. Maybe it was my wish for something original that prevented me from seeing "the twist" for what it was.
All in all, leaning between 3.5 to 4 stars.Side notes:
Typos left unedited on pages 170 and 327.