I was born with a reading list I will never finish.
Kyra - is not the typical helpless heroine I am used to seeing. I like that she has a skill set suited to her backstory (no amazing unexplainable skills). She is a valuable contributor to the people around her, not just a pretty face that needs constant saving. I do feel that she is somewhat naive about the politics of her world and the people she is dealing with but that is not unusual for a character of her age.
Tristam - he seems to be the atypical knight in shining armor. He is heroic, noble, honorable, and puts duty before self, yada, yada, yada. I am not truly impressed with the character as of yet. I do like that he is not an automaton, he feels true emotions about the loss of Jack and makes, what seems to be, a legitimate decision as a result. His behavior toward Kyra seems a bit forced. It may be that I have not seen enough of his perspective to connect with him but it all seems a little bland.
Malikel - here is a character I am interested in. It is unfortunate that he is a side character that is used to move the plot for Tristam. I find myself wanting to know more about his history and activities than I do for Tristam. I am hopeful that his character will be flushed out more as the story flows.
Willem - this guy is as slimy as they come. A true politician, which is not a compliment. He is not an active character and only pops up when needed to move the plot but when he does it is instant tension.
Demon Riders - and here is the main reason for this book. These guys are awesome. This character set is the reason I kept reading this. I actually wish there was more of them in the book, especially the kittens, but I suppose that will come later.
The Assassin’s Guild - James is a rather typical bad guy for me. He is, naturally, handsome and charming and everything a bad guy needs to be to get the heroine to trust him. Of course there are googly eyes between Kyra and James, though thankfully they are brief and, I feel, more a result of proximity than insta-love. She begins to see through him rather quickly which spares me the annoyance of this little romance.
The remaining characters are murky for me. None seem to really stand out, not even Rand, though Bacchus makes an effort to be big and brooding. I don’t have a clear picture of any of them as they are all secondary to James. He is the Guild, not them.
Plot - The plot is compelling but not totally immersive. I was aware of how far I was moving through the book rather than being lost in the world. I like the action throughout. It is well paced and doesn’t bog down in the minor details. I have lost track of the amount of time that is supposed to have elapsed occasionally but it is not a huge detriment to the book. The connection between the Guild and the Demon Riders was intriguing and played well throughout the plot. Kyra’s connection to the demon riders seemed obvious after her first encounter. But I still enjoyed the interaction between her and Pashla. I am hoping for more interaction between the clan and Kyra as the series continues.
I like the writing. It isn’t over the top or too flowerly. Blackburne doesn’t nitpick the details too much which can slow books down and begin to feel like a textbook. The pacing is well done with enough quiet moments to learn about the characters while not becoming an introspective journey through anyone’s mind. The world is solid. There isn’t much beyond Forge, but this isn’t high fantasy or sci-fi that would require massive world building. The “magic” elements in this fantasy are very subtle which makes them more believable for the world. For all the talk of Griffins and such the only real oddity is the demon riders. The world doesn’t seem suited to outright wizardry so the choice to limit the magic to such a level was smart on Blackburne’s part.