Top critical review
A Fairly Enjoyable Fantasy-Series Opening
on January 17, 2015
Out of Ten: 7/10
Review at a Glance: An enjoyable opening to a fantasy series, though the characters were somewhat difficult to connect to, and the world would benefit from more detail.
Review: I enjoyed this one, though I was hoping to like it more. I like the premise a lot- Yelena is offered a choice- to be executed for murder (all killings are considered punishable be death, no matter what the reason), or to become food taster for the leader of Ixia, and likely eventually die by poison.
I found Yelena fairly likable, though I did not completely connect to her. Perhaps part of it was that she felt very multi-talented without being multifaceted? She felt generally quite straightforward as a character, though I could see that she was meant to have depth, that depth just didn't feel completely real to me. This aside, she's a very enduring person, she's had a lot of horrible things happen to her in the past, and she pushes on despite that. She's fairly intelligent and curious, and slow to trust because of her past, and forms bonds to other people slowly.
As a result, she takes some time finding her place in the palace, but she does make friends. One complaint I did have was that her relationship with her love interest, Valek, moves very quickly from friendship. It seemed strange, given the abuse in her past, for Yelena to be comfortable moving that quickly into an intimate relationship. It just seemed sudden, it might have done with more build-up, more time for the relationship to evolve.
The world was one that lacked a history, as there was a recent uprising, replacing the nobility with a military leader. The new leadership bans magic, endangering Yelena further, as power begins to awaken in her. I would have liked for there to be more depth to the world, parts of it were hard to picture. The plot was engaging, both a complete story and a part of a larger arc, as this book is part of a series.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I am planning on continuing the series, and I hope that I will connect more with Yelena in the next book.