I loved this book, but it fell just short of amazing. I'm at about 4.5 stars.
I loved this fantasy world of Prydain. (I cut my reading teeth on Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain. Which is neither here nor there, since this Prydain is nothing like Alexander's...I digress.) I loved it precisely because there isn't much to love about the situation in the 9 cities and the people in them. They're messed up. They're at war with each other. They judge each other, fail to listen to each other, and they're greedy jerks to each other. Especially to their women. It feels awfully in tune with current times.
Then we put all these folks into a mish-mash of cultures and watch what happens.
Wynne is a fascinating woman. She's an innocent, but she's seen the worst of people. She doesn't take any guff lying down (unless she's literally being sat upon) yet she doesn't sit idly by while others are in danger. She's a fighter, she's tough, and she's smart.
The author asked me to suspend my disbelief for this fantasy, and for the most part I could. The thing that I just can't seem to get around is Wynne's physical reaction to Rune. I don't like to give spoilers, so you'll just have to know that I have just enough doubt in that scenario, that this is where most of that lost half star comes into play.
Rune was tricky for me. As are many of this author's male main characters. It is hard to get around the fact that...well, if I said it here, it would be a spoiler. I'll just say (since it's in the description of the book) that the 'dubious' part of dubious consent is imho a big understatement. Consent is non-existent through most of the story. And it's pretty hard for me to forgive. He has his reasons, and I love a lot of the things about him. He's smart, gentle and levelheaded, but also a great warrior who is respected by his tribe. He's a forward-thinker, and uncompromising when it comes to his people's safety and survival. But there's that 'but', and it's a big one. That is where the rest of the lost half star comes from.
I thought the other characters were pretty well developed--as developed as they can be when seen through the narrow field of vision of a hostage. As Wynne relaxes more and begins to focus on more than just escape, the minor characters come to life, so the POV--while limited by her focus--is true to the circumstances.
The story was a steady build to a conclusion that was somewhat predictable, but still enjoyable, with a slight twist or two that kept it from being run-of-the-mill. I'll be curious to find out if there will be more stories set in Prydain. I will definitely read them.