I read and review a lot of middle grade and YA fantasy and I've been nonplussed to see more and more books coming in at 400 or more pages. For the middle and YA crowd I like a fast paced and streamlined tale that readers can read, enjoy and then move on from. That allows for greater reading variety and exposure to more and different genres and authors.
But, sometimes you want a more mature tale, with some depth, detailed attention to atmosphere and background, and more layered and backstoried characters. That's what I found and enjoyed with this book. There are no info dumps, or if there are they are brief and come in the form of conversations that feel like real conversations, and fairly extended conversations at that. A lot of the groundwork is laid slowly, and the bits and pieces of the building mystery have to be collected from a wide array of sources. You are on something of a journey with the hero here, and details are disclosed in a realistic fashion.
That said, I never felt like the book was padded out, and considering the book's length and thoroughness it still felt reasonably fast paced. Sometimes we do walk down three alleys when one would do, or go through four doors when one would suffice, but that's usually in the service of tension and suspense, which is a nice change from some books that are so stripped down they feel more like treatments or pitches than actual complete works.
None of this would matter if we didn't have a decent plot, a rich background, and interesting characters. As to the plot, well, we do start with a human who finds out he's half Fey and then finds out he may be "the One" who has to save the Fae and the human worlds. Granted, that isn't the freshest opener. But, all of that leads to a journey of discovery that avoids most of the settled Feyre cliches, and the author's fresh, or at least revitalized, approach, was engaging even for a reader who is a little fed up with fairy tales. This went hand in hand with a decent Feyre history that had many imaginative and unexpected little touches and grace notes that, again, kept the proceedings fresh. As to the two main characters, (our hero and the female Fey who saves him in chapter one and ends up being his guide/partner), they were well imagined. Given the nature of the story the hero initially has to be a bit slow on the uptake, and rather shellshocked at some points and yet understand things intuitively at other points. The quick turnaround is always a bit hard to swallow, but who wants to read 400 pages of some lame guy in denial about the existence of fairies? If the hero doesn't quickly buy into the story you don't have a story.
So, the book is well written, well paced, and loaded with interesting touches and supporting characters. I enjoyed this as a "deep read" and figured it provided my recommended annual allowance of Fey fiction for the year. Fine by me.