To sum it up: The plot is feeble, and the characters are not well fleshed out to carry the weight of the story. Furthermore, I think this book has a weak heroine with a terrible inability to talk and relate to the other characters in the book that borders on autism-like behavior. This, for me, ruins it all since every interaction is beyond weird. (To clarify, this book is not about a female lead with autism which might have been quite interesting to read, it is simply a badly written lead that makes no sense.)
It is infuriating that the other characters act as if her behavior is normal and something that one encounters all the time, talking to her in almost monologues, guessing her answers and deciding for her. This bothered me to no end, even though the way the book is written is technically OK and the descriptions of the surroundings are done well enough. Also, the characters introduced at the beginning had a little more detail in their introductory descriptions compared to the ones after half of the book had gone by.
The heroine is lead through the plot because these very cool chars need something to tie them together and she is it, why? no idea. And neither has she! Why? Because it seems she is too much of a brooding distressed mute to be bothered to ask! Even if she has memory loss, isn't she curious or something? She is not deserving of their sacrifice or loyalty and she doesn't even like them or befriend them in the least. There is no growing bond between the party, at all! It's like they owe her and she has no idea why but then she doesn't even question it, taking their help totally for granted. She simply lets herself be trained and moved about and ordered around and at a time even deafened so that she won't know what is going on about her.
The book is painstakingly slow until way past half of it. The characters of the party could have been great but they are barely sketched, even though we know some of their stories. Still, this doesn't make them endearing, they come out as off and in their own thing.
There is of course a love triangle barely hinted at and one that the heroine doesn't seem to have much interest in, but I'm guessing it is there because this is YA fantasy after all and a love triangle is a pre-requisite (?). It provides some male eye candy and maybe make you think that there might be a reason why these awesome guys are placing their butts on the line for this mute and not really charismatic girl. (FYI, this is not explained and the book ends in a cliffhanger, making you want to toss it out the window!)
The best part of the book is her mother's diary. Please note that her mother, who is already dead at the beginning of the book, is the most interesting and fleshed out character of the entire trial. One could even say she is more alive than anyone else in the entire book. Do I have to say more?
If I still haven't convinced you, let me tell you, the beginning was so uninteresting I had to force myself to go on reading page by page, the only moment I felt I wanted to know what was next was when I saw the book was about to end and I realized that nothing was going to be resolved with it. The first thing I thought? Damn the Sagas and their books that feel like a freaking first chapter!!!
Beforehand: Sorry for the bashing. I really needed to put it out somewhere. The plot could have been great but I feel like it was stomped over so crudely, it just hurts.
***Beware. From this point onward this review is a spoil-all, with a pretty detailed summary that covers all the basic points of the story:
Frey the book is about a girl, Frey, who lives a very naive and meaningless life in a village of elves. She has no magic apart from lighting a candle or two and is taken care of by her drunkard aunt who occasionally beats her and badmouths her daily. Her magical teacher basically just lets her read books of the elves' history and does nothing much, while the whole village seems nonexistent. Frey has almost no contact with it or the villagers apart from a pretty girl that bullies her.
When one day she starts showing signs of incipient magic (growing a little weed in her teacher's table and then some in an abandoned field), the northern elf Chevelle comes into town and announces to her that he is her watcher and new magical teacher. Because her old one (Junnie) has been mysteriously whisked away in a 'service calling' for the Grand Council of the elves (without saying goodbye to her only, and very troubled, student. From there, it all comes down to her using magic without realizing it, in ways that are unethical to say the least. Like making the bully girl choke by growing a thistle in her throat, stealing books from the library in order to spy on Chevelle's ancestry, killing a poor bird for chirping and annoying her, and so on. The beginning drags on and on from her perspective and with barely a dialogue or two.
After she is accused of using dark magic and taken to be judged she chokes one of the judges (without consciously realizing it is her) and runs away with a few possessions she steals from her aunt. Following her watcher, as he goes in search of Junnie, she finds a spell among her things that burns a map into her hands and then sets on her journey towards the north, where she thinks she will find answers.
She goes about things in her head in a way that a kid would, resolving nothing as she travels and travels, not bothering to practice her magic or doing nothing worthy of telling. That is until she finds a hot horse breeder and then Chevelle pops up again, both males ordering her about and her still without talking. This is not surprising for them and they carry their one-sided dialogues with her as if her thoughts were being written on her forehead or something.
She is mute, undecided and starts no action of her own volition until way past the middle of the book. She sucks at using magic and has a ton of piled questions she should be asking anyone who crosses her path, specially Steed (horse breeding guy) or Chevelle but instead sulks and follows their orders and asks nothing. Oh! She has the hots for both Chevelle and Steed, the horse guy. Why? Because all YA novels have to have a love triangle. She is attracted by Chevelle and thinks Steed is oh so hot, but only when she looks at him, when she isn't looking at him, she forgets about it! (her own words)
She is taken by Chevelle to the North (supposedly the map was going to take her there) because he says she wouldn't stop until getting there and this even surprises her since she had no idea she even wanted to go there but decides better not to enlighten him just in case he changes his mind.
During the travel, their party grows by acquiring several more characters. All particularly powerful and mysterious, since we get almost no details of any of them and barely a few words and dialogues between them to make them seem to be doing things in the background. We get a part fire fairy elf named Ruby that goes about feeding the 'heroine' a little magic dust here and there that relaxes and dopes her every time she is seen showing a little bit of emotion... A guy that is missing part of his tongue and can produce lighting... A guy that moves fast and pops here... And there and a couple of twins that have two huge wolves.
Then, since they were too many to properly have them talk to the heroine, the preferred recourse by the author here is to have them go on watch and thus disappear from the main room were Frey is trying to utter two words to some other char in a most-likely meaningless exchange that gives you more and more questions and less and less answers!
Then, she has bouts of very powerful and unique magic and tells no one. Even torturing a guy in a very cruel way and chopping his head off with her sword and acting as if nothing happened. This is the only moment they act as if in reverence of her too.
As the story nears the end she is mind-assaulted by the Grand Council and loses her powers again being completely bound once more, consoling herself by reading a stolen book from Chevelle that tells the tale of an uber-powerful dark elf that turns out to be her mother and of how she got pregnant and had her and then, to free herself and her baby from her father she murdered a whole bunch of people and thus had the Grand Council steal Frey and seal her away with bound powers. She has an emotional breakdown and is sedated again (by now she has been sedated so many times it is worrying me she will get addicted to the substance!) because they all fear it will be too much for her to process.
She slowly regains a little bit of power and as they are traveling but then she is once more assaulted this time in an even more forceful manner. Her aunt Fannie appears mysteriously during the battle and her old teacher Junnie as well, together with the Grand Council. There is a full blow out and she passes out after someone uses another spell on her.
Then she wakes up and has all her memories of before-being-bound, from when she was young and still had her mother, and her after-being-bound memories. Chevelle kisses her and she doesn't kiss him back, telling him she is not her old self. She is weakly carried to the door and given a sword to raise when faced with lots of people looking up at her and as she does so, she is clamored in a huge roar.
Do I really have to say anything more? I do not recommend it to anyone.