He had me at "words are so precious they are only etched in gold". I love the idea of learning being a treasure and reading more precious than any other skill. I'm also drawn to the underdog protagonist, beating the odds and all that. I think I loved this book. Actually, I hated it. I don't know. Both.
I like the world and the mythology, and Wheeler's pacing is almost perfect. And his characters are delightful. Not just Lia, but all of the characters are pleasantly real and varying. I came away loving Pasqua the cook, perhaps most of all. Lia herself is a fine protagonist, brave and resourceful and most of all clever, with just enough faults to balance all of it out.
In terms of atmosphere the book has no more or less than Wheeler put into it. That is to say, it does not linger with me afterword the way the best books do, but I was drawn in for the read and believed it while it lasted. His imagery is solid, and he leaves some lovely mysteries unresolved. It's a well built world with even better built characters.
Those characters are not, however, well spoken. Or rather, they are too well spoken. I think his choice to avoid any contractions (always I am or I will or We had, never I'm or I'll or We'd) was a deliberate one based on the notion that words are priceless. However, it made some dialog seem artificial and strange. Likewise his use of dialog to convey information meant characters gave some odd speeches, saying three unrelated things in one breath without linking them. In those moments one feels the author speaking through the characters, rushing to tell you what he wants you to know.
Dialog aside, this book has one flaw that I can't really handle. I was suspicious at the beginning with some of the mythology, then there were some quotes that seemed a little to familiar.
Then the Liahona showed up.
Dude! It's one thing for a fellow Mormon to sneak onto my kindle, but then to flaunt it in my face with blatant use of LDS mythology!?! Not cool, man. Not cool.
Except, it should be cool. He's a solid author with a great handle on building a world out of the mythology he's using. And anyway, one of the things I love about sci-fy and fantasy is the religious ideas an author builds. And come on, I LOVED Tathea and Come Armageddon. But this time...ick. Once I knew what he was doing, I kept seeing the strings and being creeped out by it. It does not matter how he renames them, I'm freaked out by the presence of Urim and Thumim and... hello Strippling Warriors WTH are you doing here?
So, no. Only, yes. I get the feeling that if I weren't LDS I would dig it. It seems cool and well thought out. But because I am LDS it feels like someone has taken my religion and made it into science fiction. Dudes, I don't need to read a novel to get that. Just read the comment section of any online article about Mormons.
I will not be reading the sequels. Except that I will because, as previously mentioned, I dig Pasqua the cook.
Rating: ZERO!... wait, no... Four!.... nope, negative one million. Oh, who cares?