This one was okay, I think. Not great, but not terrible, either. I'd probably have liked it better if it were one or two hundred pages shorter, since it seemed like a lighter read than most high fantasies I pick up. Maybe that was just the mood of it, though - maybe the abundant coincidences and the fact that I never actually felt the characters were in real danger kept me from taking it as seriously as I was supposed to.
No, that didn't sound right. This book tried to be sneaky, okay? It tried really, really hard to be sneaky. It kept trying to surprise me with betrayals, secrets, revelations, etc. I give it credit for that. I just . . . wasn't surprised by any of it. The whole book was just a tiny bit predictable.(show spoiler)
The writing near the beginning of the book was really good, though. It got sadly lazy in the last couple hundred pages, but near the beginning I did enjoy it. And the pace was mostly good - I had time to get into the book and understand the characters, but the story wasn't too slow and I was never bored. I did end up rolling my eyes at the coincidences a lot, such as the timing between Idisio's and Alyea's chapters. Every time some revelation was given, (for example, the origins of the ha'ra'ha), both characters figured it out at the same point in the book. I can see where this came in handy avoiding repetitive scenes where I'd have to hear about the origins twice, but really? These two characters were in vastly different situations, surrounded by vastly different obstacles and types of people and terrain, and they always seemed to figure things out at the exact same time.....But I'll be fair, this probably annoys me more just because Alyea was obviously ten times as smart as Idisio, and it felt like he was slowing her down for the sake of the book's pace.
Anyway. I did like Cafad, when he wasn't ignoring or hitting those weaker than him. He was pretty awesome at times. I loved Deiq. Seriously. That guy was awesome. And I liked Riss, even though she whined a lot. Alyea.....is harder for me to judge. She's a really good character, okay? I'm just not sure if I liked her as a person. I don't even know if I respect her - sometimes I do, but at other times she's just.....no. She's hard for me to describe. She was really selfish and repetitive sometimes, and then other times she was just strong/quick/intuitive enough to be cool, without it being unrealistic.
I did not like Idisio. I'm sorry. I have the feeling that he's the one character the author really hoped I, as a reader, would like, but I couldn't do it. He's just so.....meh. He's obsessed with girls. I mean obsessed. I got so tired of hearing about how his brains scattered every time he saw a pretty girl (it was only when they were pretty, not when they were plain or older or anything), and how he tried not to stare at them, and how their curves looked, and how their body language affected him. Ugh. I suppose that thing Deiq said at the end was supposed to explain all of this, but it just didn't. It sounded like the author suddenly realized that Idisio's hormones were out of control, and decided to make up an excuse for it at the last second.
There were other reasons I didn't like Idisio, though. Sometimes he acted like a little boy about, say, seven years old? And other times he acted like an adult. I never actually figured out how old he was supposed to be, since the book neglected to tell me - I think mid teens, but I'm not sure. Near the beginning I was positive he was a little kid, so......
Another tiny little issue I had with the book - everything was too easy. Alyea's tests were mostly just a bunch of questions and stuff she had no control over. That's fine, because I understand that a personality evaluation was kind of necessary to becoming a desert lord, but they all made the tests sound so dire. Like, end of the world, life or death type. But no, nothing to worry about, it was mostly all just questions.(show spoiler)
And I was never worried for an instant that any of the characters would die or be crippled or seriously harmed in any way, because something convenient happened to get them out of all the really bad situations, and the less bad ones....well, most of the characters were indestructible or protected by indestructible people or prized by indestructible people, so all I had to think about was, How do they get out of it this time?
Oh hey, but one thing that I did love about this book: the monsters/deities/dragons/whatever they were. The ha'reye. They were awesome. Cafad's fortress reminded me of an alternate-reality version of Michelle Sagara's Nightshade Castle, or something. I guess I'm just fascinated by sentient buildings. Maybe. But back to the point: the ha'reye (don't be scared off by the made-up high fantasy names, because as far as the genre goes, this book was actually pretty easygoing) were seriously cool. I'm probably going to read the next book in the series, and it's only because I liked them so much. The concept of them and their execution were both very well done - they were creepy without being evil, and cryptic without being mysterious, and.....well, I liked them, okay? I'll shut up and stop ranting now.
But I'm still going to read the next book just because I hope there'll be more of them in it.
And now, it's nitpick time. This goes under the spoiler tag because trust me, it'll be a long list, and it'll ruin the otherwise organized and sane (for me) review that I've scribbled out above. There are a couple of spoilers running around, but I don't think there's anything too serious.