I loved this book so much. For me, this is a wonderful introduction to the world, as we get to spend a lot of time seeing what the everyday running of Ardaland is like up close and personal before the overarching plot of the series kicks in.
It was also wonderful to see the characters develop over time as we see Celaena grow from the shell of the character into the one we met in the Assassin’s Blade (review here) and then develop further into a wonderful character who seems to have more depth and personality that was able to be expressed in the short stories. It was also nice to watch her relationships grow, as we have never seen her spend more than a few pages before. It is also nice to see the relationship between Dorian and Chaol change as Celanea grows and how their opinions of her change.
Plot-wise, I think this was a very clever way to show what skill Celaena has and how she isn’t just a heartless killing machine. I did think though that it would have been nice to see more of the challenges as that is the whole point of the book. I felt that we were being conned of time to see our lovely protagonist grow and regain strength.