Firstly, our heroine, Rachelle is a total and complete bad ass. Seriously, she gets an A+ in bad assery. She's awesome. She is tough and brave and self-sacrificing, but she's also got this softer, vulnerable side that we see with Armand and Erec both. She definitely feels guilty about what she did to her aunt, and rightfully so.
Still, she did the right thing in the end.
There were moments when I really couldn't decide between Erec and Armand, even knowing how it ends. Erec is horrible and beastly but I really do think there was some humanity left in there.
At first, I thought she had more chemistry with Erec because it felt more raw, but then I saw her relationship evolve with Armand. In the end I think she ended up with the right person. They are both seen by the public as so much more than they truly are. Armand isn't nearly the saint that everyone makes him out to be and Rachelle isn't the gruesome killer that the public makes her out to be either. In the end they are both just humans trying to do the right thing. Of course, that sort of makes them saintly and yes, murderers.
This story was such a mindfuck, though.
That's mostly because I'd never read anything like this before. These creatures, Forestborn, Devourers, etc are completely new to me, and probably everyone else considering Hodge invented them. So it took me a few chapters to process what they actually were. However, I am glad Hodge didn't just give us explanations and back story. one of the best parts of this book is learning as you go. There is the mythology of these creatures throughout the story.
There was also a great deal of suspense. Would she or wouldn't she find the swords. There was no doubt in my mind that with one of them, Rachelle could have hacked down anything. She was just that awesome. But without a sword, she was facing an army, to say nothing of Erec himself.
I'm still sad over how the story ended for Erec. I know he was the bad guy, but I felt that there must have been something human left inside of him for him to still love Rachelle, even if it was just his version of love. I just hated that he ended that way, lost to the void. I didn't think there was enough closure there, but at the same time, I understand that he had to go somehow and that does sort of fit his story line. He was willing to give up everything for the forest and in the end, he did.
My favorite character was probably Amelie. She was sweet and kind, but had a secret too. That made her the most complex to me, and the one that surprised me the most as well.