(picture taken from Goodreads)
The characters in this book were awesome! They had primary characteristics but were still well-developed, with plenty of depth and change throughout the book. Gavril Kitsune (a soldier and sometimes-friend of Moria's) was probably the most intriguing character--he was a mystery, and yet, he felt deeply and followed an honorable code obvious to the girls. The relationships between Moria and Ashyn and their spirit animals, Daigo and Tova, were beautiful. I just wished the girls would speak more directly to the spirits. Maybe Armstrong did this on purpose, so the girls would not have extra advantages in the crises they come across? It was interesting, too, how the author used animals and mythical creatures to convey meaning about each character or event. The differences in the girls' reactions to the first personally tragic event in the story, for instance, revealed Moria's bravery and strength as well as Ashyn's steadfast hope and cunning. Armstrong chose the perfect creatures to put in the characters' ways, as well. They were unique and strange--not too similar, so you knew they were not directly connected, but not too different, so they would fit well in the same book. And the ending of this book was crazy! I didn't realize when I was reading it that this was the beginning of a new series, so I thought the plot would wrap-up by the end of the book. Boy, was I left hanging! One of my favorite characters is mixed-up in all of the bad events of the book--more than I expected, although less, I suspect, than the other characters think. I thought of some alternate ways to have told this story if Armstrong wanted it to be fiction or science-fiction, but I think Armstrong made the right choice going with fantasy--her use of those cool, mythical creatures really made the story. In conclusion, I would definitely recommend reading this book, but maybe not until the next one in the series comes out. I don't usually read series as they're being published, and the suspense is driving me crazy! It's so good!
This book was my third New Releases Choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. Still making progress! And I'd love to hear how far you guys have gotten with this!