I often have to reset my brain during the first chapter or two of books that are new worlds, and this was the same. The story started strong though and was definitely worth the effort. I had to remind myself that in the age and place of Nicole's world, children grow up a lot faster than my four. They have a maturity necessary for the hardships they will face.
Aislinn came off strong and determined from the very beginning. I loved that she knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to go after it even though it was not the accepted norm for her country. Many times she was so stubbornly focused on her goal that she missed or ignored certain aspects of a child's life. This was one of the things that made her so real to me. I could relate to that stubborn focus.
I also loved how she matured over the years. One of my favorite scenes is when she breaks down in tears over the death of a young girl. It is a great moment when you realize what a caring woman she has grown into on top of her strength as a knight in training. The balance and realism is expertly crafted. A true example of how to show who your character is and not telling.
There is also a sweet romance woven through this book. I didn't feel like it was the main focus, but the back and forth between these characters is so natural you can't help but be swept away by it. When it looks like there is no way they can ever be together, you ache with Aislinn.
All in all, I really enjoyed this read and can't wait for life to slow down so I can read the next two books in the series.