As with much recent Y.A. fantasy, there's a bit of a love triangle here and it would have been kind of nice if the two potential heroes apparently vying for Alina's affections were perhaps more well-rounded although in the second half of the book I had to admit that I was developing a bit of a crush on all-around-good-guy Mal. He's the "boy next door" equivalent, although in this world that means an orphaned boy raised with Alina who ends up as a star tracker in the army. That's not giving anything away because this all comes out in the prologue and first chapter. It's kind of refreshing (also from the first chapter, so not really a spoiler) that Alina knows she has a crush on Mal from the beginning. I'm getting kind of sick of books where the heroine has tortured feelings about her close male comrade that she doesn't understand. This gal knows who she wants from page one and despairs of never getting it!
The world created here is different from anything I've seen before in Y.A. fantasy and was refreshing. The book was extremely fast-paced with a perfect blend of action/adventure/romance, even though there were a lot of "trampling through the forest in inhospitable conditions" scenes. But even these scenes were rendered with a mixture of sensitivity and humor. In other words, character didn't come second to plot and I always enjoy strong characters faced with insurmountable-seeming odds. I'm looking forward to reading book two (Siege and Storm).