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Faced with the challenge of representing a mythical and magical pre-industrial society, Kingfisher made the courageous decision to use the language and idioms of a second rate sex and shopping novel. The characters come straight out of a highschool movie (competing jocks, mousy but interesting heroine, nerdy kid with nose in a book, and a talking dog thing). If this bold treatment is not enough the author semaphores the main plot twists of the next volume to avoid any surprises for an unwary reader and the whole thing just stops dead after nothing significant has happened, avoiding literary cliches such as the cliffhanger or any kind of resolution of anything.
I'd heard this Kingfisher's name kicked around, and was looking for a new fantasy author to try, so I ordered this. Big mistake. Not only are the characters two-dimensional and stereotypical but the plot is simplistic and formulaic. I felt I was reading about standard genre types going through the standard genre tropes. The story took far too long to unfold, and left the reader with far too many unanswered questions. For the first book in a series, far too much is unexplained (Who is the Dreaming God, and why does he matter? Who is the Dowager, anyway?) Too much is left unanswered. Add to that clumsy typesetting and glaring editorial errors that even a cursory proofread would have caught, and you end up with a book I threw away after gutting my way through half of it. I never found out what happened to the characters, and I didn't care. Don't buy it.
I really was enchanted with the details of the story included in the sample, and made my purchase based on that. However, for me, the rest of the book soon devolved into scenes of sophomoric, unfunny “sketches” between the characters—two of whom (the assassin and the scholar) were so unlikeable they became annoying.
I also find myself in agreement with another reviewer’s comment that: “Italicized thoughts were overused and it snuffed out my excitement for reading.”
Finally, after reading the initially amusing phrase, “Shut *up*, Brenner” repeated one too many times, I had to put the book down after 100 pages.