(I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review).
(This review may contain spoilers).
I felt that parts of this book reminded me of Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness books. I did enjoy reading about Ryiah… and I found her to be a really well-rounded character, though less so when I felt she was getting a bit obsessive about Darren.
Although the book seemed to set up quite early on for Ryiah to be that much more powerful than many of the other students, I felt that she wasn’t set to be a ridiculously over-powered character. It was good to see that she had to work for the skills she developed and although the training was especially harsh and brutal, I liked reading about how Ryiah and her friends had to work hard at the training. I was less clear about why some of the nobles were so good at it, though.
I thought it was interesting to see how the training didn’t start off with showing the students spells, instead having them learn discipline and the normal kinds of lessons young people that age would learn. I thought it was good that the training was so intensive (because I thought it worked really well to see the students having to develop more than just their magic skills), but it seemed strange that the masters hated first-years so much. I could understand them being hard on the students, but some things they did came across as downright cruel.
I liked Ella’s friendship with Ryiah, though I could really have done without the constant references to Alex’s conquests with girls. I didn’t really ship Alex and Ella together, especially after Ryiah made it clear how much of a ladies’ man her brother was.
I didn’t really like the potential romance between Ryiah and Darren, either. I liked the friendship aspects a lot more and I think it would have been better to stick with that. Although I did share the dislike the others had for Darren to begin with, I did feel that the author did a good job of turning it around… without ruining Darren’s original personality.
I would be interested in reading the next book in this series, but it would be good to read less about the romance/love triangle. I liked the friendships formed a lot better… and to be honest, I felt the sideplot with Clayton was completely unnecessary. Still, I read this book really quickly and it was enjoyable to read. Ryiah was a likable character and I’d like to see more of her journey.