Joshua Palmatier has done a very good job with this debut novel. I think it is sometimes difficult for male authors to do female leads, but Joshua pulls it off well with Varis. She is a character you can sink your teeth into, one you feel for, one who is believable. This is not a pretty world he created but a realistic, gritty, nasty place to live--or try to live. Varis faces plenty of hardships and obstacles and they all seem real.
Once or twice I started to feel as if the violence was a little too much/often, but looking back it was reasonable. Another thing Joshua does well is dangle the mystery of all good fantasies. He leaks out information oh so slowly, giving you just enough to whet your appetite, then clams up and moves on. Exactly what I want in a fantasy. It kept me turning pages and wondering about the White Fire, about Varis and about the Skewed Throne.
He wrapped things up nicely at the end, but left a wonderful chunk of 'I need more' for the next book, which I'm about to go get.
Nice job, Joshua.