I had this book on my to-read list since mid-2010, but decided to move it up the list now because Stacia Kane has hit my radar a couple times recently as being... well, a pretty fucking awesome person.
Unfortunately, I think my timing wasn't the best. I'm just now emerging from a two week reading slump, during which I just could not settle down to read anything properly. So, while I did enjoy this book, I think I probably would have enjoyed it more had I not been struggling with my stupid brain to actually let me read anything at all for any length of time.
At least partially because of said slump causing sporadic reading habits, my experience with this book was somewhat disjointed. But I do not think it was JUST my reading issues causing that feeling... I just mention it out of fairness. There was a lot going on in this book that I wanted more info on, things that are never really explained but are mentioned in a way that makes it seem like it should be known. Some can be picked up by context, but some stuff would definitely have benefited from a little background or exposition to fill in gaps.
I'm sure that quite a lot of this is world-building that will be fleshed out throughout the series, but I just wanted more here.
I did really like the world shown here, and the concept of the Church having disproved God and religion, made it heresy even, while forming a new "religion" around magic. This was interesting to me, and the little snippets of info from the Church was intriguing, though kind of brainwashy/overbearing at times as well. But I liked it overall. I did like the heretical questions that one person raised regarding this godless world though; it stuck out in my mind and I couldn't help but agree with it, to a point, despite being an atheistically leaning agnostic myself. "Do you honestly think it's good for people to obey laws out of fear, and to know exactly what happens when they die, and to believe in nothing but themselves and power? There's no mystery. There's no hope. It's like a little hell, this world."
This just resonated with me because people DO need something to believe in. It doesn't necessarily have to be a god, but just something to live for. What's the point if every question is answered and there's nothing left to discover? Futurama asked this, too, and it wasn't pretty. Bad news, everyone! :(
I didn't much care for Chess, which is not good news for a series with her as the main character. I thought she was selfish and stupid, and has definite issues that she needs serious help with - not least of which is her drug dependence. I'm not much for reading about drug use, so I can't say that it was my favorite aspect of the book, though it was realistic within the setting, and served a bit of a purpose, too. But still, it felt a bit like glorifying addiction and dependence, and I didn't much care for that.
I LOVED Terrible though. He is by far my favorite character, actually the only one I actually liked at all, and if I continue the series, it will be for him. I would love to see more of him, or a series from his perspective, would be fantastic.
The last thing I want to mention is the dialogue. It took me a LONG time to get into the swing of the Downside dialect, and even at the end I was still mentally inserting articles and verbs and whatnot when they were missing, or correcting words, or just... I guess translating mentally. The dialogue wasn't really out of place, it just never really sat right with me. Probably this is more of a "me" issue than a "book" issue, but still.
Overall, I liked it well enough, and would recommend it, but I did definitely have issues with it. I will probably pick up the next book at some point though.