Overall, I loved this book. The characters were fantastic, the setting excellent, the plot fluid and the prose beautiful. The ideas behind the story are very original, and I love that in a fantasy.
The story starts when a wizard named Tamghat attacks the temple of mortal-born goddess Attalissa, who is only eight years old and hasn't come into her powers yet. She's protected by a demon called Blackdog, who has possessed the bodies of different male hosts over the millennia, always at her side. Tamghat is too strong, and Attalissa must flee. But the further Attalissa gets from the temple and her lake, the weaker she becomes, and the Blackdog suffers fatal injuries to help her escape.
Cue Holla-Sayan, a caraveener of a completely different race, culture, and god, who can't walk by a dying girl and her dog on the side of the road without lending a hand. Unfortunately for him, the Blackdog bites, making him the new host.
That's where the story starts, and it grows into a true epic. There were characters and subplots in the story that I hadn't expected--the tale is much larger than the back cover would have you believe. Gods seem to be the new thing in fantasies nowadays, but Johansen does hers very, very well. Each one is interesting, especially Narva. (Want to know why? Read the book!)
Again, there wasn't a single character I didn't like (other than the bad guy, but I'm not supposed to like him, right?). Characters drive a story, and these ones drove it home for me.
There were a few downsides to the book. Johansen, on occasion, can get very vague with her descriptions to the point where I have to re-read everything again to try to understand what's going on. This happened in a crucial scene toward the end of the novel, and it left me confused. The ending also surprised me--not the ending I expected, not the champion I wanted. But the resolution satisfied me.
Because of that, I give this book 4.5 stars instead of five. I definitely recommend it to any lover of fantasy. It's very smart reading and tasteful where it needs to be. There's always a new piece of story to surprise you. All-in-all, this is one of the best books I've read in a while.
Editor Kristy Stewart also reviewed this book, if you want a second opinion on it. ;)