This wasn't a particularly fast-paced read and at times I did wonder if we were going to get to any action, but it still kept me reading all the way through. I was really interested to see what kind of world and magic system the author was going to create - I did find it really intriguing and felt terrible for the women who were little more than possessions and suffered a lot of abuse and even worse, the "tarnished" who were literally sacrificed!
The relationship between Serena and Zade was tentative for quite some time, with Serena always expecting the worse but gradually coming round to the fact that not all men were like those from her country. Zade is a lovely, kind man but we never really learn a huge deal about him - I don't know if more is being saved about the world and background for the next book to reveal, but it would be good to know more about his home country and the politics etc.
The blossoming friendship with Serena and Zade is slow and sweet, ending in the beginnings of a romance of sorts, but there's no steam in this read really, as its more about the politics of the country, Serena learning to grow more confident in herself, gaining independence and about trying to right some of the wrongs.
I would have liked to see more use for the magic or understood more about it - also we never really understand whether women can make use of their own magic or whether it always has to be the man and how exactly this works - can it be topped up? Can it be used in a way other than spilling blood etc?
Although a little slow and not that much in the way of action and magic, I still found that it kept me interested. I will look out for the next one when it comes out - I think it's Cynthia's story next.