Top critical review
Not Lackey's best ...
Reviewed in the United States on December 10, 2020
I generally enjoy a lot of Ms. Lackey's books; the Elemental Masters series is good fun, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the Valdemar books. They aren't intended to change the world - they're light, entertaining tales, well told, generally with fairly vivid characters and good solid worldbuilding.
This one didn't do it for me. It's not BAD; it just misses the mark in a few areas. I don't find the characters to be as dimensional, and definitely not as believable as most of her characters are - it's not that I don't like Jenny Talldeer, but I'm not drawn into caring about her as much as I'd like to be. Mooncrow is similar; he seems like he ought to be a delightful, fascinating old reprobate - and he almost is. But not quite. He falls a little flat.
But the thing that really put me off (***MODERATE SPOILERS HERE!***) is David's redemption story. When first we meet the character, I thought he was going to be of the "old flame who has gone to the dark side and is now a bad guy" trope - a trope that's a little overdone but is certainly still workable. As things went on, I started thinking, "Oh, no, she CAN'T be setting him up for a redemption story, can she?" But of course that's exactly where things go. And I don't buy it. Not for a moment. Not so quickly. I don't buy a guy behaving and speaking as he did, turning himself around so dramatically after a being shaken up a few times. I don't buy the Talldeer clan being so on his side, if he behaved badly in prior years. I certainly don't buy Jenny's dad playing matchmaker, after David's behavior - not without a LOT more work on David's part to win everyone over. David's backstory doesn't hold water ... it's never explained why he left college and didn't pursue law, and why he thinks he's doing more for the Movement working menial jobs (Alternating with being a paralegal? How does that make sense?). No part of the whole David story feels authentic or plausible to me, and most of all, I don't buy Jenny taking him back. (***END SPOILERS***)
The book has some strengths. She paints the region with great detail - it feels truthful. It's briskly paced. Prose is clean and crisp and effective, as I expect from her.
It's just not one of my favourites.