This is a classical example of Epic Fiction, using the Hero’s Journey format. In keeping with modern trends, the heroine is a more personable and lovable character than was typical in the past. This sets warfare and mayhem at a less important level and puts the onus on the characterization to create our enjoyment of the book.
And Emara is a really nice kid. At the beginning she is perhaps a little too uncertain, a little too naïve, because the character she develops into by the end is rather a stretch, considering her starting point. However, this does nothing to detract from our sympathy for her and our enjoyment of following her on her travels, both physical and emotional. It merely lowers the age of appropriate readers more towards younger teenagers rather than the more blasé older teens.
Secondary characters are likewise allowed to have their soft spots, which makes them more interesting as well.
The story has all the trappings of its genre. Trekking through destroyed landscapes, hounded by gruesome beings, both souls and bodies at risk. Manipulation by higher beings interfering with what mortals desire. In my opinion, there is a happy minimum of this. We are not talking “Game of Thrones” here.
The settings are impressive and well described, although kept appropriately in the background of the action.
When it comes to the conflict, this author has fallen into the trap of giving the magic too much power. The good guys experience a lot of danger, and there are many strong action sequences. However, each time the battle seems completely lost, Emara manages to pull an even more powerful technique from her ever-deeper back of tricks, to the point where we lose the expected level of tension, because we know she’s not really in that much danger. When it comes to magic, weakness creates suspense.
However, our empathy with the main character allows us to feel her pain and glory in her success. In general, a great modern young adult version of the classic Hero’s Journey.
(5 / 5)