This is right on the very edge of my comfort zone. The main character, Llandry, is a diminutive humanoid with, erm, wings. Are we talking about a fairy here? I'm not sure I really DO fairies. And yet... There is enough here to intrigue. There are various different adjoining kingdoms, some with some kind of technology, which is interesting enough all by itself. And then some seem to live in permanent day, some in permanent night, and some in a kind of twilight zone, if I've understood correctly (which I probably haven't; it's complicated). Then there are the 'gates' to the Upper world and the Lower world, and various creatures can (and do) pop through from the other side, and that is another kind of interesting. There are sorcerers and summoners and all sorts of magic going on, and yes, I'm definitely intrigued. And this world is populated with people who have proper families and relationships and jobs and pets even (creatures from beyond the gates, but still...) and I have to say, I like it. And Llandry herself is not like any heroine I've ever come across before. She has panic attacks, for one thing. So it's different, but I really like it. Just don't mention the wings.
The opening is lovely; a little fey, rather strange but quite beautiful, in its way. And once the main story gets under way, it sucks you in and it's hard to put down. What is going on with these odd gems that Llandry has discovered? What are the creatures popping up here, there and everywhere? Why are random gates appearing? It's a rapid acceleration into a fairly breath-taking sequence of events, which I found very readable - one of those just-one-more-chapter type books.
I love the world-building in this book. I have absolutely zero idea how it all hangs together - there's an Upper World and a Middle World and a Lower World and... well, that's about it really. But I love the ideas - the sudden shifts and the strange plants and colours and wildlife. And the odd light. It's all slightly surreal, like a dream-world, and the author conveys that brilliantly. It would make a cracking film, actually.
The characters are all very likeable in realistic ways. I very much liked Llandry and her parents, and the mysterious Devary. The other main character is Eva, a Summoner (someone who has an empathic bond with various creatures, and can find them and bend them to her will). The various minor characters - sorcerers, summoners, Eva's fiancé - have their own quirky charm and feel realistic, with histories and emotions and relationships. And many of the odd creatures are very much characters in their own right.
Some quibbles: there are a lot of characters to keep track of, of various races, and the names are no help, being seemingly random collections of letters strung together. Without a map or some kind of guide, it's impossible to separate the various kingdoms (countries?), or work out what all the different plants and animals are (although, on the whole, it doesn't matter much). And I struggled to understand the whole business of Daylands and Darklands and the Night Cloak. At one point I was reduced to trying to draw a basic map, just to work out some of the journeys later in the story. The author is working on a proper map, so that will be a great help when it's available.
I have to confess that this is one of the most unpredictable books I've ever read. There was simply no knowing what was going to happen next, and none of it felt contrived at all (well - only a little, and not in an unbelievable way). And there's an event at the end which completely blew my mind; there was no way on earth I could ever have seen that coming. And, yes, I will definitely be reading the rest of the series, I absolutely have to find out what exactly is going on and how it all works out. This is not a book for everyone, it would be too quirky and fey for some tastes, but it's a nicely written, intriguing story and I really liked it. Even the wings stopped bothering me after a while. Four stars.