I learned two things from reading this book: first, that "transcript of my D&D game" is apparently a genre and second, that if your story is essentially a transcript of a D&D game, nine times out of ten your main character is going to be a mage. It's much easier to explain how a person can suddenly use magic than to explain how they suddenly know how to pick locks, or wield a sword. It's the path of least resistance.
The entire book is written...weird. It's written in omniscient third person (which is normal in most books), but in the present tense. The style definitely makes the book harder to read. The book ended up sounding like someone was telling the author a story, and it was just written down word for word. "And then, the main character hears some wolves, so he climbs a tree for the night to avoid them!"
That's another thing. James is terrified of fighting some wolves, and because he doesn't do anything, Seth, a kid he knows from school, dies. Yet just a few scenes later, James badly burns some bandits to save the life of a man he just met. And I'm sorry. I just can't bring myself to feel sorry for Seth's death. He had already been missing for a few days before James showed up...did Seth not once stop to realize that he'd be safer in a tree than on the ground at night?
I just realized that after that initial fight with the wolves, James never had problems camping in the open throughout the rest of the book. Maybe Seth was just unlucky in encountering the wolves.
The plot/progression of events felt like it would have been more at home in a video game than in a book. Every single encounter James has directly helps him move forward on his quest. He meets a bard who he later has to save. The bard just happens to know the man in charge of the royal library, which just happens to be where James needs to go to research a symbol. The librarian, in turn, gives James a book and letter to deliver to the librarian in a city under attack, and it's only because he has that book that he's allowed into the city. I've seen video games with subtler plot hints than this.
And then, there's the magic. Why make your magic run on rhyme and meter if you character is terrible at putting together rhyme and meter? Why not just use the whole "word of power" idea? That bothers me in the best of books, but it's made worse in this one by the fact that about halfway through, James realizes he doesn't have to use rhymes to create spells. If he never had to put together rhymes to make magic, why would you subject us to that? Why? [I'll admit he's a better poet than the chick from Prophecy of the Flame, at least.]
There's also a...trope, I suppose you would call it...that's recently started getting on my nerves. For lack of a better term, let's call it the "Wide-Eyed Factor". This is where a character gets brought in to a magical world from current day Earth - the character will try to explain something simple (like a flashlight) to a normal citizen of the magic world, and the citizen's response is to stare at the main character, "wide-eyed". Because clearly the world in which magic is a common-day occurence is FAR inferior to our own world.
I wouldn't harp on this so much in this book if it didn't happen ALL THE TIME. Every chapter after he meets Miko, James blows Miko's mind by telling him about things like "forensic science" or "how tornadoes work"...or, my favorite, "meteors are not magic, except that one might be".
For all of my complaints, I didn't hate this book. It's one of the better D&D style books I've read. I just had trouble getting over the above-mentioned points.