In addition to the info dumping, there was a ton of completely unnecessary description and prose in this book. Honestly, I don't care if Emariya (the heroine; we'll get to her in a second) likes the feel of fur against her cheek if it doesn't have anything to do with her development as a character or the plot as a whole. I don't care what color dress she was wearing while out traipsing around the countryside; in fact, being told that she was wearing a white dress after days on the road without a bath or any hope of one just made me wonder if she was completely moronic. Like, I know it's a medieval fantasy-based world, but there were only two people around. I'm pretty sure the girl could have worn pants, or at least a simpler dress.
Okay, let's get to the plot. So, the story revolves around Emariya, who's the daughter of an important lord in the realm of Eltar. Eltar is under attack by Sheas, another realm, and doesn't really have the weapons or manpower necessary to fight off the attackers. In order to get weapons and supporting troops, she agrees to marry the prince of the third realm, the name of which I don't remember. Anyway, the prince's name is Torian, and that's the important part. Emariya doesn't actually set out to marry Torian until a good chunk into the book, and even then, not a hell of a lot happens. There's a lot of walking, and riding, and talking, and it's very Lord Of The Rings-esque in that there are tons of descriptions of scenery but not much actually going on. So, the Lord-Of-The-Rings thing isn't actually a compliment. I hated Lord of the Rings. Emariya is a completely boring heroine. Totally insipid. Absolutely no flavor to her at all. She's generic in every way, shape, and form. She's beautiful, everyone's in love with her, she has a hidden power and dead parents, she's being forced into an arranged marriage, blah blah blah. Nothing original here, folks. Also, absolutely everybody except her seems to know she's got hidden powers, but somehow she never got clued in. What? I mean, the maids who work in the kitchen and the peasants living in the countryside know she has magical abilities, but her? Noooooo. Of course not.
Torian was boring, as well. He falls in love with Emariya the moment she sees him, and the feeling's mutual. She struggles against it a bit, because she doesn't think it's real or whatever, but Walker never actually gives us a reason to doubt the sincerity of either of their feelings. There's not real struggle, no heart-rending moment when you think things might not work out. Instead, the two of them just go sailing off in their blissful little romance. It wasn't badly-written, necessarily... In fact, there were a few very good kissing scenes. But as a whole, their romance just doesn't do anything except have gushy lines like, "But no one loves the moon." "I do." So, yeah. The romance was just meh. Torian doesn't really have that much depth to him, either. He's got some cool family issues that I think had a lot of potential to make him a much more complex character, but Walker never elaborated on them. I honestly liked him better when I thought he was a complete bastard, because it would have given him a dimension other than the standard cookie-cutter hero.
And then there's Garith. Oh, Garith. Who has been friendzoned so hard and knows it but is still in love with Emariya, and actually loves her all the more for it, because "his love is all he can give her." Gag me with a spoon. I'm not a huge fan of love triangles, but at least if Garith had posed some competition to Torian, the whole Torian/Emariya thing might have been a bit more interesting.
Also, why the hell did Walker pick a name like Russell for one of the characters? The rest of the world is filled with Jessas, Emariyas, Torians, Rinks, and Gariths, and yet Russell is the name of a villain? I think not. THIS is Russell:
Anyway, at the end of the book I felt like I was where I should have been 1/3 or 1/2 of the way through. The characters are just on the verge of setting out to encounter conflict; no real conflict has actually occurred yet. The whole book is just set-up for the next one, and it shouldn't be. Books in a trilogy should all strengthen each other, and yet should be able to stand alone. This doesn't.
2 stars out of 5.