I've been assigned this book for the first round, and although the title was great, from the outset the blurb hinted that I might not like this one. The heart of the story is that a girl needs a boy to protect her when her father is taken away with matters of the Kingdom (although, it is mentioned her father is a coward and in hiding. So when will he be going away?) As if the matters of the kingdom are too much not because she's a child, but because she's a female. And bringing in another child, a male, is the answer to everything. However, I went into it with an open mind. Maybe there was a catch? Maybe this plot point is a misdirection? I gave the book 10%, or 11 chapter in this case, before I DNF'd it. Between a shoddy premise, a few instances of head hopping, redundant prose, and a plot that fell short, I couldn't get through it. There were several things that didn't make sense about the plot, least of all the actual kidnapping itself. At the suggestion of the palace blacksmith, the King decides that the princess needs a brother to protect her and and sends for an orphan, but... a non-orphan is taken instead? Why is the King being advised by a blacksmith? Why he is even talking to him in the first place? Why were the orders SOOO botched by the soldiers? And if a rogue soldier made the decision to take this particular child, why? I had hoped to get answers, or at least hints at a reason why this was all happening, but there weren't any that were satisfactory. At one point, a year passes and Dargoth comes to the conclusion it was an accident and the King had never meant for him to be taken from his mother. Yet, he was never taken back, either.
However, there were some things that were intriguing and might please other readers as well. The world was interesting... there are "mad sorcerers" with mysterious powers who have a hold of fear over the people and the king. I didn't get far enough into the book to really see any instances of this, except for a beginning scene where Dargoth is the only survivor from an attack. But he hides the whole time and we don't get much. However, I liked the idea of a group of "bad guys" who kept an edge of "what's going to happen next?"
Another thing I liked was the main character. He was a child, and I tend to like children characters who are well done. There was definite potential with Dargoth. I feel like with a better plot that was more believable, this character could really shine. The bare bones are there: an interesting world, a good main character.
I know how hard it is to put yourself out there as an author, and have your work critiqued. And quite honestly, I think this book really does have a lot of potential. I think with a professional developmental editor and a professional proofreader to get rid of the redundancy of the writing (there were several instances of two sentences that said the exact same thing, just in a different way, as well as head hopping) this could be a good story. And I think this will land well with some readers, particularly those who like epic fantasy with child protagonists.
A couple more suggestions for the author. The blurb could use some work (for that was the thing that automatically set me on edge about the book). The redundant phrases in the prose are easily fixed with another few beta reader run throughs who know to look for those issues. And lastly, a professional cover goes a long well in selling books. Good luck!