I saw how popular this series was, so when it was on sale, I bought the whole trilogy. Unfortunately, I now regret that, since I barely made it through this book, and was not even able to finish chapter 1 of book two. I'm shocked at the overall ratings for it, but hey -- I'm glad people enjoyed it. I wish I had.
The core story was okay here, although it was pretty blatantly (as Wheeler admits in the afterword) a mashup of "Richard III" with the "War of the Roses" aftermath plus a dash of "Charlotte's Web." The plot is wholly unoriginal.
I still could have enjoyed it -- there are some really lovely little hints of fun fantasy worldbuilding in the 'fountain' aspect, but the writing is mundane, often sloppy, and the characters are inconsistent and just not believable. Epecially Owen, who I never bought as an 8 year-old boy -- he either came across as being much younger, or much older -- rarely in between. Despite the fact that a large amount of dialogue takes place between Owen and his friend Evie (also eight), the conversations were never believable to me as being between two children, even kids who had to grow up fast, in a pseudo-royal setting.
Added to this is the inexplicable fact that several times, Owen's friend Evie directly endangers their lives for completely stupid reasons that the author treats as lighthearted or somehow charming (as others pointed out, at one point she goads him into jumping into a deep, dark cistern without any visible way for them to escape, and it's treated as if Owen is being cowardly and Evie is simply brave and inspiring. This is, er, mildly disturbing.
As far as the writing goes -- at best, the language is workmanlike. At worst, it's modern, sloppy and filled with basic errors in grammar and syntax (for instance, Wheeler keeps calling the two children "youths" and it's just not accurate for describing a girl and boy (much less, of eight versus eighteen years). Other little sloppy anachronisms or weird word choices just continued to pull me out of immersion. I did not feel like I was reading something timeless.
I made it through the book, but I was disappointed in it overall. As noted, I did try to read book two, but the writing was so much worse there I gave up before the end of chapter one.
It's not the worst thing I've ever read, but I was glad I only spent two bucks.