One of the best books I've read in years! Well written and well researched, the characters and customs of the people fit in perfectly with historical customs of the time period. And though it was a fictional place, the island of Cercia, Gwen's makes it feel real...
The story builds in suspense with every chapter, and drew me in immediately with the tension of grave digging, forbidden magic, rotting corpses, lost love, murder, betrayal and secret conspiracies... Unexpected turns are in store for the reader. I could tell Gwen is personally acquainted with her characters as they are easy to love, hate and empathize.
My favorite character, Asahel, is a tortured soul, trapped in between the classes and feels that he doesn't belong, an outcast who wears his feelings on his sleeve. His hunger for belonging tests his strength, his ability, his loyalty and leads to some unexpected turns in the plot.
Quentin, struggling with his own dysfunctional relationships at home, reaches out to Asahel, risking his own reputation to embark on a great adventure wrought with peril and deceit.
Felix, a character whose true intentions are unpredictable, driven by deep rooted motives, a manipulative character who plays a significant role in bringing the plot full circle. I couldn't decide whether to love him or hate him until the end.
Catherine.. I see myself in this character. Self-punishing and driven, hard-shelled and stubborn, yet a hidden tenderness which eventually propels her into the plot... a lifetime of regrets to atone for. Her weakness becomes her strength when she finally realizes what's at stake and she learns to appreciate what she has taken for granted.
To top it all off, there is an excellent moral to the story... how can you love another if you hate yourself? And how can you be loyal to anyone else if you are not true to yourself? All in all, an EXCELLENT read with action and magical tension. A book about loyalty and summoning the strength within do choose what's right in the face of certain death. 5 well-deserved stars! Can't wait for the next book in the series!