I enjoyed this story tremendously - it's filled with great detail and descriptions, contrasted wonderfully with a sweeping scope and epic adventure, painted with human and not-so-human emotional challenges and growth, all in a structure of logically evolving plots, conflicts, and resolutions.
Hemlock is initially portrayed as the reluctant heroine driven to reach beyond herself when she finds herself in a desperate predicament: her sister lies helplessly ill and the magic that might save her is fading. Blaming the wizards in the Tower, she sets out against all odds to find and remove whatever is causing the magic to fade. The story follows her adventures and growth as she learns the complex truth and consequences of her actions.
Hemlock's predicament, her response, and her growth, are all very plausible and emotionally satisfying, as well as the characterizations of the other main players in the saga. I would have liked to see her kick more action butt at the end but that's just the Hollywood in me; the way she actually pulls through is far more in character and believable. There are no broad clumsy B&W strokes of 'cookie-cutter' good-guys vs. bad-guys, but rather well positioned conflicts of intersecting interests.
The range of scale, scope, and conflict in the story is huge, from personal internal emotional conflict to army-sized brew-ups and sieges. The contrasting of these different scales and viewpoints is well balanced and keeps the pace moving rapidly along.
The tricks, traps, and magic Hemlock encounters on her journey (especially in the Wizard's Tower of course!) are
very creative and fun. I was challenged to put myself in her situation to see how I'd measure up (alas, I would've died, several times over...).
The logic of the entire world meshes seamlessly and never feels forced, contrived, or artificial. Great detail is provided where needed, but like spotlights on a stage providing bright clarity where needed, the areas out of the spotlights can only be imagined and leave a strong yearning for more. I hope there are sequels because I want to know more about the nomadic teleporting city and how it interacts with the locales it visits; more about the history of the four outlying regions that travel with the city & its peoples; and so on.
To sum up, if you enjoy being immersed in a fantasy world that is at once both very real because it just 'works' and yet completely different from our own, where strong characters forge their destinies in epic conflict, this story is for you!
(reviewed 67 days after purchase)