Canavan's characters redeem an otherwise formulaic fantasy trilogy. I don't especially like her protagonist, who is far too serious, worthy and virtuous for her own good (and doesn't ever seem to enjoy anything), but she faces and works out her moral dilemmas very credibly. I'd've liked more backstory for the villain, Akkarin, and more subplot for other major characters -- Canavan's motto seems to be 'tell, don't show', but she doesn't indulge in back-plotting enough!
I really, really wanted to edit her prose at times: there are repetitions (one word is OK, a favourite descriptive phrase is not); there's some very clunky phrasing; and she has a tendency to belabour the point. (Some of this may be deliberate: I wonder if these books were originally aimed at a YA market. They're published as adult fiction in the UK, though.)
The most annoying thing, though, is the way she assigns exotic new names to birds and animals that look strangely familiar -- the habit that someone (Damon Knight?) referred to as 'calling a rabbit a smeerp'. There are not-chickens, not-foxes, not-spiders, not-oxen and not-mice. (Don't have the books to hand, can't recall names.) Why not just use the familiar English name? None of these creatures have plot-relevant differences, as far as I can tell. And -- after keeping me guessing for ages about what creature would turn out to be drawing the carriages that everyone travels in -- she called them 'horses'.
I did like some of the characters (Ceryni, Dannyl, Rothen, Akkarin) and wish she'd concentrated on them rather than on the dull-but-worthy Sonea. And despite the aforementioned flaws, I kept turning the pages -- the pacing is excellent. Too many words, though, and not enough of the right ones.
reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place