I'm always leery of prophecy in fantasy stories, and this one didn't have any, and even some of the things that seemed to be foreshadowed early in the book never happened (or happened very differently). I like that.
And the relationship between the main characters, Princess Katya and her consort Starbride, has progressed in a very believable way. This goes back to what I wrote about here, that I think writing about marriage (or, in this case, consortship, which is an official step toward marriage) can be far more interesting than writing about courtship.
Another strong part is that the main villain stays offstage for this book, and still the heroes have a rough time of it -- making the reader realize how much trouble they'll be in when he actually appears again. Also, there's the interesting (and alarming) fact that the villain has obviously figured out things about the magic system that nobody ever knew before. It's as if Sauron did something and Gandalf said, "Wait a minute. That's not possible!"
It reminds me of the Amber books, where Brand learned things that nobody else knew about Pattern magic. That leads to the good type of foreshadowing, where you know things will be tough but you don't know any details.
Oh, and the author deals with the common problem with serial fiction, which is how much do you recap from the previous installment (or try to work it into the story). She just says to read The Pyramid Waltz first.
Which is good advice.
I'm digressing a bit (well, I did mention the Amber books 🙂 ), but I had to mention how much this character description pleased me from the Wikipedia page about Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber:
Deirdre (silver & black), Corwin's sister. Corwin's feelings for Deirdre are decidedly un-brotherly, and she appears to return his affection. She is a minor character in the Corwin cycle, but the Visual Guide to Amber says that she was the best-loved of the royals, due to her beauty and compassion. She used an axe in battle.
I love the combination of the beauty, the compassion, and the axe.
Speaking of genre cliches that drive readers crazy (like, for me, prophecy) here are two good blog posts on that subject:
And finally, I'd like to mention that "Arrival," the first part of my new story, is done. You can read it here.