I discovered this author with book 3 and have returned to the first to learn the background. I agree with others that the plot isn't as tight in this first book, but hold in there because the third is a whammy and the pen is polished! A magical world with life and death danger and destruction like Harry Potter, but totally literary. The possibilities are endless and the alternate worlds and importance of books to different cultures and time periods is fascinating. I have book #2 on my next to read list, and am looking forward to more from this author.