I was deeply disappointed in the minimal amount of magic in this book. Magic is one of the main reasons I love fantasy so much. The setting was somewhat similar to the orient, and the environment was manly a dusty desert. This was neither a negative nor a positive for me.
Mara is an extraordinarily brilliant young woman who's father and older brother just died leaving her the ruler of her lands. She never formally received any political training from her father because she was not the heir, so when she is thrust into this role, she has to learn as she goes. She also pushes tradition to it's edges so that her people can survive.
I did struggle with all of the names. It is typical for fantasies to have unique names, but I didn't like any of the names in this book. These weren't just the names of people and places either. It was of clothing, food, plants, and animals. It was just a little too much in my opinion.
There are some other great characters in this story as well. Nacoya, Keyoke, and Papewaio (my favorite) just to name a few. These were the main advisers for Mara and they each stood out to me for their differing personalities. I admired how the authors could manage that with all of the other complexities in this book.
What makes this book different from all others?
I think Mara's strength of mind and spirit was definitely unique. I've read about quite a few strong women, but Mara's situation was much more difficult. The whole culture of honor in this book was very unique. I found myself very interested in understanding its rules and reasoning. For example, for the people in this book, suicide by blade is considered an honorable death and hanging is considered to be a slave's death or very dishonorable.
I will continue this series. Mara is so cunning I can't wait to see what she does next. I hope that magic plays a larger role in the future books though, and I hope that Mara can open herself to find love.