This book was very fast-paced. And not really in a good way - it seemed a bit too fast. The plot jumps from one scene to a next with no transitions or connection to the next scene. One second, the characters are hunting a boar, and Mara gets hurt. The next, she's fine, and they're winning a tournament. And for some reason, it's wrong for Mara to try to hunt a boar, but perfectly fine for her to compete in a contest known for regularly killing children. I'm sorry. I'll try not to harp on every inconsistency. But small things like that really took me out of the story.
Talis and Mara were...okay as characters. They had some decent characterization, and I will admit that Mara's reactions to anything even remotely resembling proper ladies behavior were pretty funny. The other two kids are just obnoxious. And they're main characters, for some reason, despite being incredibly unlikable. You're supposed to establish an emotional connection between the reader and your main characters - the goal is to make readers care about what happens to the characters. Rikar and the fat one just kind of grate on your nerves.
I did like the descriptions in the book. The detail put into each scene was nicely done. I especially liked the landscapes. I just wish more attention had been put into the characters and the transitions.
The ending - I had been warned about the ending before I started reading the book. I figured it couldn't be as bad as everyone was making it out to be. It was.
The problem is, again, the lack of transitions. Nothing about the last two paragraphs feels like the book is being brought to a close. It just...stops. That's it.
Books that just end like that bother me. Yes, the story might be continuing in another book, but this isn't that book, now is it? It would work if all of the series were put together in a collection, where you could just read one right after another. But when it's a single book being cut off like that, it just leaves the entire thing feeling unfinished. Give us some sort of closure!
Anyway, this book was okay. It's clearly written for younger readers, but it's not the worst book I've read, by far. I suppose I should someday actually put together a reference chart of the worst books I've read...