2.5 stars. If Katsa wasn't such a caricature of a bad feminist ideology, it might have ranked slightly higher. But I have zero use for heroines who think it's okay to use someone for their personal gratification knowing full well that it could cause the person unhappiness.
Not entirely sure what I think of this one so far....
I'm halfway through and I've got a couple of major problems:
1. What is the plot and who is the antagonist? I kept expecting the Leinid grandfather to be a segue into the main plot...but now I'm starting to think it's actually the main problem of the story? It just seems kind of...I don't know, anticlimactic. Or maybe it's that I was expecting a fantasy plot and I feel like I'm getting a whodunnit mystery plot (since the crime already happened)....but until halfway through the book we don't really see and experience the main characters trying to solve the mystery. Instead we get a bunch of descriptions of training sessions and feasts and the main character's temper tantrums. ??? So far, it really has felt like a bunch of strung together episodes, which might reveal something about the world or the character, but really don't seem to play into a larger plot.
2. The writing feels extremely bland to me. I've read entire paragraphs that flow like: "He did x. He did y. He was z. He did x." And I'm not exaggerating the clipped, monotonous sentence structure either. LOTS of passive verbs. Lots of telling (like the info dump in Chap. 2 that almost lost me entirely).
3. The names. Oh, Lord, the names. First there's the unfortunate similarity between Katsa and Katniss from the Hunger Games, and the way Katsa is portrayed, it's almost like she's being presented as a stronger, tougher, better and more talented version of Katniss. Now, I personally didn't like Katniss that much as a character, and Katsa just seems kind of...outré. Almost like a caricature and not a person. Then there's the even more unfortunate combination of "Po" and "Randa" in the same story. I'm sorry, but I can't help seeing "Po the Big Fat Panda." If she'd just made it Poe and Randal, that would have helped infinitely. Then there's the godawful country names. Middluns, Estill, Nander...(all arranged in a map that looks, quite honestly, too childish to take seriously).
On the positive side, the last couple of chapters have at least made me smile. I laughed out loud when Katsa shouted Po's name in the...special way...and when she tried to catch the goose with her hands. But...I'm still not sure where this is all going.