On the one hand I really liked the book. On the other hand, it's not very good.
Kei is the type of character I really love. He's upbeat and fun to be around and hard to intimidate, which is why when he is beaten down it's so damn heart-breaking. Even the most positive person can be seriously harmed, and he is. Boy, is he ever. Watching him struggle with his trauma and his injured gift was the highlight of the book and made up for a lot of the books flaws. And boy, were there flaws.
The biggest flaw the book has is that it is very black and white. The bad guys are bad. They're not just bad, they're evil. Evil evil evil. Arman's wife is so evil that I ended up feeling sorry for her. After all, she's married to a husband who hates her so much that the only way he could get through their wedding was by being drunk off his ass. I definitely could not blame her when she found a lover outside of her marriage--after all Arman wasn't having sex with her and her husband's family didn't have an heir for the next generation. (Arman's older brother having not done his familial duty either). No doubt she'd been getting a ton of pressure about not having kids while he was out with the Army. Perhaps sensing that her readers would be somewhat sympathetic to Mayl the author then proceeded to make her as evil as possible. Not only is she sadistic to Kei, she's a terrible mother who deserved to have her newborn infant taken from her. This, naturally, means that everything that happens to her is totally, 100% deserved. Evil.
The queen is just as bad, seemingly confusing 'political hostage' with 'slave'. It's emphasized again and again that the hostages will be killed and that there cannot be any bargaining to save them because the bad guys will kill them out of hand... which makes me question why the bad guys even took hostages in the first place. Hostages are pawns, they are supposed to be used as bargaining chips. That's the entire point of taking hostages! This isn't some crazy man in a bunker taking a kid hostage, this is a conquering nation supposedly making a calculated move. Also, despite Arman supposedly being a favorite of the queen he can't get any sort of accommodation. When he brings up the fact that several of the hostages had been raped and complains about their treatment she completely dismisses it and makes no effort to show her favoritism, despite the fact that she loves him as a general.
Everything the Darshia do is good, aside from one village which is bad. Bad bad bad. Everything is perfect. They're a democracy. Everyone is equal. No titles are used (except when they are). No child is abused or orphaned because they're immediately adopted by someone else in their clan. Their medicine is highly developed. They have such massively powerful gifts that I am astounded that they let Southern Darshia be conquered twenty years before. They win so easily that I'm actually angry. They would invade in order to free 89 hostages, but allowed THEIR ENTIRE SOUTH to be captured by the bad guys for twenty years because they were afraid to hurt anyone?? Are you kidding me? In the book this is considered perfectly justified, when in fact it is really bizarre.
Another thing that really bothered me was how things had to be reiterated again and again. I nearly threw my tablet across the room when Arman apologized for the tenth or eleventh time for taking people hostage. Yes, we get it, you're sorry. Now shut up about it and move on. Every single decision had to be gone over in excruciating detail.First Kei decides to go on the mission to rescue the hostages... then he has to convince Arman to allow him to go... then they have to convince his best friend... then they have to convince one of the Rulers... then they have to convince his army friend.... etc. After the best friend the conversations should have been summarized, and they weren't. That was one example. I'm not even going to get to Arman visiting every single village and apologizing over and over again. The editor should have taken an ax to the story and hacked off about 20,000 words.
It got to the point were I started to forget some of the more touching scenes with Kei's struggle. I had to go back to reread them in order to keep my interest in the story. All the details and the one-sided conflict and the black and white world really distracted from the romance. This was a book in which Tell, not Show should have been applied.