I couldn't help overhearing several scenes when Rina was listening to the audiobook. Between the interrupted wedding and the voyage to the end of the world, I decided to read this book myself. And yes, I got the paper version.
I politely listened while Finn was chained atop the road in the first chapter, but he altogether lost my sympathy when he sprung the trap. "Oh, great," I thought, "another amoral antihero." What restored my interest in Finn was when he freed Attia and left the gang - when he started standing up for morality against his environment! Sure, he falls back sometimes, but he's always trying to break his conscience free from its prison. That's what makes him a hero and a person I'd like to know.
But even before Finn's conscience, the book's environment grabbed me. Despite what Rina said last month, it isn't Victorian. It appears late-medieval. And that's nice and fun; it's almost the Standard Fantasy Environment. Except it isn't. The country isn't late-medieval, it's futuristic under the iron rule of kings who make everyone act and appear medieval! I like this. It adds another layer of depth; it stops me from cringing whenever characters say or do something anachronistic; it turns those times into character- or background-building moments! I still smile whenever I remember Claudia telling her servant, "Just put it through the washing machine. I'm sure you've got one somewhere."
As Rina said, the themes and setting and action more than make up for any deficiencies in characterization. She doesn't delve into themes as much as handle them - they come up naturally in the plot, and the characters address them as appropriate. We don't get any meditations on human nature; we see it in action and we see Claudia and Jared attempting to forge a solution which human nature won't instantly tear down.
And do they succeed? For that, we can see the sequel... I'll be reviewing that later this week, with more attention to the themes and characters.