Okay, first off, this was decidedly enjoyable. The main character is intelligent and sympathetic. She’s spent her time following interests away from politics, which has bored her. But, now it’s impinging on things she cares about. There’s rebellion brewing in a city that’s practically a second home for her, and the Raverran Empire could destroy a large chunk of it as an example if it goes too far. Worse, she may be the one ordered to do it (which is a result of the book’s first complication).

That said, there are problems. Even as complications are introduced, it always feels like the politics and intrigue are too simple and straightforward to feel real. Some of this may be intentional, as we’re seeing it through the eyes of someone who’s unused to intrigue. …But I think the author is too (not that I’d do much better).

The strong point of the novel is the number of ‘no good answer’ questions that are presented. People who can use magic are clearly marked (a colored ring appears in the iris), and they are ‘jessed’, with their magic bound, and made wards of the state, and also work at it’s direction, for the more powerful types, often with the military. There’s a fair number objections to this in the book, but considering some magic is likely to run out of control without the binding, and before this system, the common reaction was to kill anyone who was mage-marked… how bad is it really?

A little more mixed is the use of Venice as the prototype of Raverra. It generally feels right, and the rest of the setting (what little we see this time) fits with it, but Raverra has a large land empire, as opposed to the Stato da Mar (okay, so this is more based off Renaissance Venice, while I tend to think of Medieval Venice, but the island trade empire is a lot of what makes Venice interesting to me). At the moment, Vaskandar is a bit one-note, but hopefully that’ll get a bit filled out too.

But the main character is good, the cast around her is believable, and the action is well done. While there are dangling threads for a trilogy, the immediate plot wraps up well, and overall, it’s a very solid fantasy novel, especially for a first novel from the author, and the reviews I’ve seen indicate the quality stays high for the entire trilogy.