I so wanted to love it. I adore Carol Berg, so when I read the description and thought I felt a hint of her style in it, I was practically bouncing for joy. 100 pages in, I was still happy. The characters were okay; the world, while geographically and psychologically an obvious rip-off, was explained well, so I didn't mind. The prose was beautiful.
Then things began to go wrong. Characters would appear once, and then not be mentioned again for 200 pages, when they would abruptly hop into the story and expect you to remember everything about them. The plot slowed down and degenerated into a warped, humorless, dull students-at-magic-school retelling of Harry Potter. (I hate to mention Harry Potter alongside this trash, but it had to be said.) All of the characters I'd liked before either disappeared or were abruptly rearranged into unlikable stereotypes.
Not to mention Gair's idiotic friends. When I wasn't bored to tears--no, they actually weren't worth tears, now that I think about it--over their "in-depth" backstories, I was glaring at the page and wishing I could slap them over the head with something very large and hard. AND Gair's romance angle was disgusting and lame. I didn't care in the least for her, either.
The "mysteries" in this book were pathetically obvious. I hate it when I can predict allegiances, motivations, histories and intricacies hundreds of pages before they tell the MC about it.
I don't have anything personal against Elspeth Cooper; by all means, keep writing, you clearly have a talent with words. Just . . . learn a little in other areas, and leave me out of whatever comes.