It took me a while to get into the swing of the narrative. This was caused partly by the prologue, which didn’t have any characters and thus left me adrift in description with no reason to care, and partly because the book was written in present tense. Present tense always takes me a minute to adjust to since most books seem to be written in past, but the main issue I had with it in this case was that the immediacy of present tense seemed discordant with the distance of an omniscient narrator.
Once I got used to it, I fell right into the rhythm of the story. Castleberry’s writing was beautifully descriptive without being heavy-handed, and this is the first book I’ve read in a while that didn’t have me stumbling over typos and editing oversights. I connected with the main characters immediately, though I did grow to dislike Wolfe pretty quick. Each character, even supporting cast, was unique and well defined, with their own personalities and motivations.
The end of the book was not all that surprising — I guessed as much would happen from the moment I learned of Penn’s contract — but that did not detract from the climax in the least. Where the book fell down was in the wrap up. A few short pages tie up the end of the story tidily enough, but they lack… well, anything. All these characters, who we’ve grown to care for, get the equivalent of “and they lived happily ever after.” The one exception is Wolfe, whose ending makes sense. Especially Cody/Cayda would have had a lot of internal issues to work out at the end that didn’t really get addressed. That said, the majority of the book does a great job portraying the internal conflict of Cody, both struggling with being a girl but forced to be a boy, and trying to live up to her father’s expectations and save her family despite her deep fear of the creatures she seeks to face.