What I didn't like: What the hell was up with the sparrows? No seriously, what was with the sparrows. Every time they were mentioned, I had to roll my eyes. The only reason they were there was to lead Kel to the spidrens. They literally served no other purpose to the story. They didn't work as a way to show Kel as a caring individual who defended the "weak" and small; there were plenty of other examples in text that worked much better. Maybe if they had only been mentioned one or twice and they didn't start following Kel around they would have worked, but as they were presented in the story ... no, just no. After spending what felt like most of the book reading about them, they sure as hell better be in the sequel.
What I liked: A strong female character I could relate to. Kel was totally kick-ass without being a caricature. A female character with flaws and fears. Fears that actually cause the character some difficulty. Kel's fear of heights doesn't just mean that she can't stand on a top of a tower; she has trouble climbing a small tree and she can't do stairs unless she focuses exclusively on the individual steps. And it doesn't stop there, because of her fear she also has to worry about whether or not she will be allowed to continue on with her training.
I also loved the fact that she actually had to work at certain skills. At the beginning when she almost tossed her instructor I was afraid it was going to be one of those novels. But I was thankfully proven wrong pretty quickly, while certain tasks she masters with relative ease based on previous experience and training she is in no way good at everything. It takes months for her to learn the lance and tasks that the other pages know, like running and archery, she has to relearn.
Also not everybody likes her and not everybody hates her. How awesome is that? People have different thoughts and opinions. Why can't I find more books like this?
Unfortunately, I have very little to say about this book. It seemed to me that it was just a repeat of the previous book. There wasn't anything new really, even the end seemed like a rehash of the previous book. The birds however, were back so yeah.
While this book was definitely a step up from the previous, it still didn't hit quite the same note as the first one. It wasn't as repetitive as Page, probably due to the different setting. In fact the new setting brought a breath of fresh air into a series that I was afraid I would have to drop. I will note however that I was not a fan of the romantic angle. Why is it whenever there's a female protagonist, love has to come up? Isn't it possible to have a female character who just isn't interested in relationships? I will add however, as a positive, that Kel didn't immediately drop everything she had worked for and decide to settle down and live happily ever after. She even goes on to say that she wouldn't want that. Still not happy about the romance.
It took until the last book, but I feel this series finally got back on track. It still had too much of a romance angle in my mind, the ideal book wouldn't have any, but like the previous book it wasn't overwhelming. I also have to add, that when Kel went off on her own to rescue the people she had been charged to protect, I rolled my eyes. There's brave and then there's stupid. I changed my mind later though because I think that part of the book serves to underline a serious flaw in Kel's character, a mark of a well-developed character. Overall, this final book was good enough to save a series that I was afraid I would grow to hate.