I'm trying to think of how to talk about this book without being mean. I'll try for blunt and hope it doesn't come across to badly.
Here's the story: Alera is stuck with the likelihood of marrying a guy she actively dislikes. She's muffled by rules that keep woman from holding power. But out there is something watching...... The country over holds a possibility of love but a huge possibility of her entire country getting wiped off the map.
The tone of this book was impossible to get through. It was stilted and, well, inane. I didn't come across any perceivable plot. Some of the character descriptions made me want to fork myself in the eye. Not everyone old can have "silver hair"!
On a more technical note, I used to be a slavish lover of eastern european history specifically in the late medieval through renaissance eras. I was going to major in it in college until I realized that it was just a one way ticket to being that bitter high school teacher that everyone rolls there eyes at. I'm giving you this background to make some sense of the upcoming rant.
If the fantasy Alera is going to be even remotely accurate it needs some HUGE adjustments. Her dad is hooking her up with a young, handsome guy that won't let her speak her mind and she's having kittens over it. In a medieval based culture she would just be relieved she's not marrying twice her age who has no teeth. She would be expecting an arranged marriage. That was the price that girls of the nobility paid for not being peasants. It was a social contract over land rights, power structures, and military alliances. Nothing else. Certainly not an exploration of feelings. Liking your spouse was a bonus, not a goal. Next Alera challenges her father over his decisions on how to handle and enemy captive. Yeah, no. Medieval woman had a lot more power then we gave them credit for, but the point of a nobleman wasn't to look pretty in those days. It was to be a military leader and protector. If any daughter got into a public throw down with her father she would have to lose, because she would be making her father look like a fool in front of the lesser nobility who owed him. In that case he would be ripe for being deposed. Life was harder in those days and no one could afford to be superfluous. Alera's country is a lifetime special masquerading as a fantasy world.
I've read over countless friends MS's that have reminded me of this book. I'm just surprised someone published it.