I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
When I first heard about this book, I thought it would be reminiscent of Deborah Harnkess' All Souls Trilogy. Beside the fact that it deals with magic, it isn't. Others have compared this book to JANE EYRE. I can see why they would say that but I wouldn't make a comparison there either. The writing style (not the content) reminded me most of Diana Gabaldon.
Nora Fischer has hit a rut in her life. Her academic career and dissertation have stalled and her longtime boyfriend has dumped her. Attempting to get her mind off her recent troubles, Nora attends a wedding with some friends only to discover that her trouble has followed her. In an attempt to get away for a little while, Nora goes on a hike only to stumble through a portal to another world. The fantasy world she discovers is almost too good to be true. Nora becomes involved with a mysterious handsome man and her world falls apart yet again soon after. Realizing she is now stuck in this other world, Nora begins to study magic with the magician Aruendiel in the hope of both making a life for herself and possibly finding the way back home.
This book is highly detailed and well-written. Barker has really thought out the alternate world and gives a wonderful amount of detail. The reader can often become bogged down in the detail, however. The book moves at a glacial pace. It took a couple hundred pages for me to really get into the story. Even then, the pace was very very slow. The action doesn't pick up until the very end and then the book end abruptly. I have a feeling there will be a sequel. Too many loose ends and unanswered questions. There is a lot of good in this book but it is missing something that I can't quite put my finger on. In some ways, it lacks fun. It needs a little more humor and playfulness. I loved all the details about the magic and magical history but it all felt a bit dry. I'm hoping Barker will be able to flesh everything out in a sequel.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended with reservations. There are a lot of interesting details in this book but it is very dry and slow. If Barker can add the missing ingredients in a sequel, she could have a winner.