This review and more at Whitley ReadsCan we stop for a moment and talk about how awesome that cover is? Because, hot damn, that cover is awesome. And that’s in addition to being a nice break from all the “girl in a crazy dress staring dreamily off camera for no reason” covers.I liked this book well enough; it had a fast-paced, interesting plot and some vivid settings. But the story felt too big for its book. This was a story that begged to be epic, begged to be a door-stopper, and instead it was pared down to under 300 pages. As a result, a lot of things were glanced over with barely a mention, and entire concepts were hastily told to us instead of shown. The rulers of the country are bad because…reasons. The other villagers are mean to Lia because…reasons. We don’t get to see these things, because we don’t spend any time watching Lia interact with her “normal” world; only with the magical quest. And yet, these are supposed to be big things.It’s really a shame because, if it had been given the space, this book had serious potential for epicness.Likewise, the characters weren’t given time to develop. I don’t think anyone in this story actually had a character arc. They were all incredibly flat, with only a bare minimum of personality traits, and they didn’t change over the course of the novel. The closest we got was Lia discovering her magical abilities, but that was simply her adding a new skillset. She didn’t have any attitudes about magic (or anything else) that change, and she didn’t have to come to any sort of acceptance over it. She learned some new stuff, but she remained the same. The concepts in this book were great. We were introduced to some very vivid imagery and creative magical details. The context for these concepts was nonexistent. There was no sense of culture or setting outside of a physical setting. We spent about half a page with Lia’s home village, about two chapters with some dwarves, and the rest of the book was spent in the company of three or four main characters and a lot of trees. A big subplot of the book hinged on the rulers of the country messing stuff up and turning people away from “the old ways,” but that’s about all we learn on the subject. Were the old ways on the way out already? How many people can actually do magic, anyway? Lia inherited hers; is it the same for others? Is there a reason people are so willing to turn? Is something else replacing the old ways? Well, no one outside Lia’s family even gets speaking lines, so we’ll have to read the sequel to find out.The pacing of the plot, with the exception of all the unanswered questions, moved along quickly. There wasn’t a dragging romance subplot (although only because it got awkwardly wrapped up near the start) ad there weren’t many places that dragged the story down. Everything was go, go, learn, do, go some more. Things remained focused and headed in the right direction, which certainly made the book easier to get into. Also, there was no annoying cliffhanger. There was a cliffhanger, but it was the proper sort, where the main plot of this novel got wrapped up and we get teased for the next novel. This book felt complete, like the proper beginning of a series should, instead of like it had been hacked off in order to extend things. Kudos for that.