My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The important things first: in my not-so humble opinion, A. M. Dellamonica is a writer of top-notch fiction, a wonderful world-builder, and a joy to read. I first came across a work of hers on Tor.com, and then I hunted down everything I could find so I could read it all.
This book took me longer than usual to get around to reviewing. For months now I’ve enthusiastically recommended it to all and sundry but never got around doing the formal write-up. Too many things I pointed out as positives in conversations looked oddly like negatives when I wrote them down.
In the interests of getting this posted before Book 2 comes out, I’m going to skip the overview and plot synopsis parts that give me so much trouble and go straight with my books-are-food analogy: This is a delicious ratatouille. Or maybe a casserole. It’s an entree that gets better when allowed to stew for a while in memory, and also one that improves on revisiting. Basically it’s a pot full of delights. It has a little of a lot of familiar elements, not a lot of any of them, and all of them are easily identifiable but combine in scrumptious sometimes unexpected ways.
This book has plenty of reviews online to tell you more about the plot and details. I’ll put in this much: it’s a portal fantasy with unconventional protagonists and a setting real enough that the antagonists aren’t always evil. The cultures and characters are far different and far more complicated than they appear on first introduction, and the reader learns about them as the main character does, through her eyes as she is dropped into the unknown.
That’s a rich, immersive style I enjoy, revealing a setting that goes all the way to the bottom of the bowl. I recommend grabbing a metaphorical spoon and digging in. That way you’ll be hungry again just in time for the next installment.