I've seen multiple glowing reviews for this book so I knew I had to at least try it. I'm always a bit wary of books that the majority of people like because there's been quite a few times that my expectations were too high, so I didn't end up liking the book, but I actually enjoyed this book.
The highlight of this book was definitely Kestrel. Lately I've been wanting to read a book with a main character that isn't the best fighter in the world and doesn't know how to kill people multiple ways with their bare hand (not that there's anything wrong with those heroines) but I also don't want a character that can't do anything. Kestrel is like the perfect blend of those things. She's the general's daughter, but her skills lie in strategy not combat. Her fighting skills don't even compare to her tactical skills. The best scene of the book is her duel with Irex. She is aware that there is no way for her to win by fighting him, so instead she develops a plan that doesn't rely on her combat skills.
For the most part, the world building is good. I would have liked to know more about the other territories that the empire has conquered because up until the end I assumed that they only had the peninsula, but according to Kestrel their territory has grown too big to protect from the barbarians. I was also a little confused by the time period. They aren't technologically advanced but I don't think that quite makes it historical so for now I'll just say it's fantasy.
The one part of the book that didn't work for me was the romance. It's a huge part of the book and in the beginning Kestrel and Arin's relationship did not work for me. It seems to almost come from no where, but at the same time it was really obvious that the author was setting the book up for Kestrel and Arin's relationship. I ended up liking the relationship more by the end because it developed and there were good reasons for the strain on their relationship.
The ending makes me want the second book like right now. Hopefully the next book will be as good as this one.