Don't be fooled by the description. This book is actually a romance hidden under a flimsy fantasy-book disguise. I was lured in by the promise of adventure and a fantasy plot, but instead I just got endless pages of slow-building romance. Which is not a bad thing, but definitely not what I expected.
I can't say that I like this book though. It hits a lot of the usual notes for a female-lead fantasy book, but it missed the mark for me, overall. I had problems with main characters, the side characters, the romance, the plot... I guess I had a lot of problems with this book.
To start off, Morgan is supposed to absolutely kick-ass what with her amazing sword skills and no-nonsense personality. She takes it like a man and can throw down harder than one in a swordfight. But even though she is supposed to be the strong female character (and I love those in my books!), I don't like her. I think the reason is because I haven't seen her "earn" her strength. She just comes into the book already the strongest shieldmaiden that can take down any man and a pretty little backstory of being trained by one of the greatest fighters. But I don't care about that. I haven't seen her sweat tears and blood for that strength so it bores me. It's like a cheap way of making her a strong character. She's a "strong female character" because she's physically strong. That's not strength to me.
Morgan also really annoyed me whenever she spoke. She complains about Adhemar bragging about himself, but her words are so freaking arrogant and casually dismissive. And then she would pry for Miach's secrets with the parting words that she'll figure him out, and then be obstinately closed-mouth about herself, her goals, and her past. Until, of course, y'know, they start falling in love. Then they're open books. Blahh..
Other major problem I have: freaking perfect main characters. Not only are Morgan and Miach powerful and magical and the strongest of all, they are also beautiful. Insta-fall-in-love beautiful. I don't do perfect characters and I don't do beauty without a major flaw. I think having characters moon over someone's beauty cheapens any romance that develops.
Riddle me this: what character flaw do they have?
... right. Thought so. And that makes them boring.
The side characters were useless. Why were they even there?
I am just annoyed because this entire book was a romance. The plot is a flimsy reason for these characters to meet. Honestly, in the whole book nothing happened but the romance. In the long journey, only a romance was achieved. At the end of the book, we find out that Morgan is indeed the swordbearer. Which we knew from the beginning since they introduced her!! So what excitement is there for the reader? Uhhhhh no plot (since the big plot purpose was figured out from meeting Morgan), not world building (we just see trees and horses). What's left? Oh right. Romance. Whoop-de-doo.
If you think about it, Adhemar and Miach don't even have a method to figure out who is the swordbearer. Did they think they were just going to waltz around the country randomly and find her? Well, I guess they did, and I think that's ridiculously stupid. Honestly, they met her and if they didn't travel with her and she didn't accidentally touch the sword, they would never have known. What kind of idiots are they? Did they even have a solid plan? No wonder their country is going to be invaded if the rulers just up and leave their throne to go on a wild goose chase with no plan. Their meeting was too contrived. Too happenstance for it to have happened.
What more can I say about this book? It was empty of magic. Oh there are shapeshifters and spells, but it's the same old, same old you see in any fantasy book. There are monster. Yep, scary things that you fight. There are... horses? Pretty horses. It's just such an empty world besides Morgan and Miach. And I don't like them nearly enough to like this book.
I was going to give it 2 stars because it was okay, but after writing all of my annoyances out, it's more like a 1.5 stars. But I'll round up to 2 because I'm generous and I did manage to finish without ever angrily tossing the book at my window.
I don't think I would recommend it to any of my friends though. I can't recommend it to people who like fantasy, because I think it's more of a romance novel. I can't recommend it as a romance because the pacing is a little too slow. I can't recommend it for people who like strong female characters, because I don't think she is one (besides her physical strength). I just don't know who I could recommend this to, even though it's really not a horrible book. Maybe nobody.
Note: I do not think I will pick up the second book unless I run out of things to read. I was just not convinced. And running out of things to read? Haha, highly unlikely.