**spoiler alert** Many spoilers, because many of my complaints are about particular story points.
From the very beginning we're off to a rocky start,**spoiler alert** Many spoilers, because many of my complaints are about particular story points.
From the very beginning we're off to a rocky start, as the author lies to us to try to trick us into thinking that Lila is in more trouble than she really is. In the very first paragraph we're told that she has "no real resources save the ropes binding her wrists." On the next page, however, it will be revealed that in fact she has several flares, three knives, and a cask of ale that is described as a "parting gift" from the people who we are to believe abandoned her in the middle of the ocean to drown in her leaky skiff (if that sounds like it doesn't make sense...it doesn't).
She is "rescued" by a pirate vessel before she can sink, however. The man who carries her up onto their ship gropes her under her skirt (ew), but somehow fails to discover that she's wearing pants under the dress and has knives holstered above her knees. Also she has some magic knockout gas to incapacitate the crew that haven't fallen prey to the cask of ale that she drugged. Because of course this is all part of her plan to take out the ship all by herself - fooled you!
Her original crewmates come pick her up and marvel at her accomplishment, one asking her how she did it. So...they didn't know the cask of ale was drugged when the left it with her as a "parting gift?" What?
Eventually we learn that Lila earned her place on her ship of privateers by robbing one of the previous crewmen while they were on land and eventually killing him when she got caught. Because that's an awesome job interview. I found it very hard to swallow that the captain found her an interesting enough puzzle to bring her on board.
But all of this pales next to the fact that Lila eventually decides to join an international magic duel even though she has only barely learned how to use her magic, doesn't know the rules or structure of the competition, and the competitors have already been chosen. Yes, only a carefully selected group of twelve individuals each from three different countries will compete in this annual event designed to foster good will among the three kingdoms. How will Lila gain a place among those competing? Why, she'll take a look at them, pick out someone that no one seems to know very well and who is about her height and build, and then assault him - beating him unconscious with a metal pipe, stealing his belongings, then dumping him on a prisoner transport ship.
I found this horrifying. We know from the previous book that Lila isn't exactly a paragon of moral fortitude, but I can't believe that none of the people who find out what she's done are appropriately upset that she bludgeoned an innocent man unconscious and stole his identity. And how long did he train for this event, and now he's missed it? What repercussions will there be when he eventually reports what happened to him? Lila's inner voice tells her several times during the book that she's dangerous, reckless, foolish, and mad, but someone else should really get around to telling her that she's selfish, arrogant, thoughtless, and possibly a sociopath.
I really didn't enjoy reading about her this time around, and just wanted her to fail and finally be held accountable for her actions. Instead she will almost certainly save the day again, and we'll just ignore all of the terrible things she's done because she's the big hero. Not cool.
As for Kell, I want to be sympathetic, but he spends a lot of the book feeling sorry for himself and whining. Yes, he doesn't deserve to have the people fear him as some kind of monster, and yes, he deserves some credit for saving Rhy. But the fact that the King and Queen don't trust him anymore? Well, he did violate their trust over and over again, so...that's his fault. And then he lies to them some more in this book, which isn't exactly going to help get him forgiven any time soon. The bits with Rhy are similar - he spends a lot of time feeling sorry for himself too. I didn't find their parts of the story very engaging, though at least they seem like largely decent people for whom I can conjure some sympathy. ...more