This is a good YA fantasy, and I can be a bit of a harsh critic, since I have read so many stories in this category. It’s technically a 4.25 for me, and there were moments in the story when I would have given this a 5, and others when I leaned towards 3.75.
The magic system is fascinating, and I like the slow growth on the romance front. This story does follow the expected path for YA fantasy, and I could have used just a bit more of the unexpected with this one to give it a 5. The villain was pretty fierce, but if it had been turned up just one more notch, that would have really caught my attention.
Regardless, I still like this a lot. The characters are strong. The world building is pretty good but could be even stronger. I’m hoping the world building runs even deeper in book 2. A lot of this book follows the path for an epic myth quest (also called a hero’s journey, but we called it epic myth quest in college, so I persist), which is a standard fantasy trope that I actually enjoy.
Some people complain when they see recurring trends in storylines between novels in the same genre. Not me. I expect that, and as long as the story is fascinating and well-written, I’m still happy. I would read a thousand different version of an epic myth quest (and probably already have), as long as there’s strong voice, solid world building, well-developed characters, unique magic systems, good writing, and decent plotting. This is a good story, with all of the above, and I have a feeling this might be one of those series where the second book really advances the world and turns out even better than the first book. I can’t wait to read it and find out if that’s true.