Talia had a very bad childhood until
Rolan came and took
her to the
she studies, makes some friends and some enemies. By the way, I am sorry for comparing a half-giant (Hagrid) to a highly intelligent magical horse (Rolan).
Despite all of the similarities to Harry Potter - and there are more than those I mentioned already, this book is not one of the countless Harry Potter clones. For once it was written exactly ten years before Rowling's magnum opus. Another great difference is that while Harry Potter - at least in the first couple of books - is about sense of wonder of a normal boy who ended up in a magic world and his adventures, this book is about Talia's development and coming of age. A very good description would be something like: a young adult novel written at the time when young adult was not equal to non-stop romance.
Talia is an interesting character which is a big win and a big fail at the same time. She is an undisputed star of the novel and as such gets the biggest development. She is a strong woman written before readers start demanding at least one to be present in a book, to the point where some writers have to include a token character. As I said, she is strong, but also realistic. She is not a female Conan the Barbarian on steroids. She is not the best sword fighter and most probably will never be. She is not the strongest magic user and will never be. She is not going to win any physical strength contests.
So what makes her strong? She always overcomes her problems herself, or with some help from her friends. She found her place in the Collegium and made herself highly useful and irreplaceable. She does not spend all of her time suffering from her unrequited love to a sparkling vampire (there are no vampires in there - sparkling or any other, by the way). She does her job, and does it well, or tries to. She is kind and caring and not bitchy. Dear authors, take note: bitchy is not equal to strong!!!
Talia almost feels like a realistic human. "Almost" is the keyword here. The failing is that sometimes she feels like a Mary Sue, and sometimes comes too close to being one. I could not find anything bad about her, except for her excessive shyness.
While I am on the subject of bad parts of the book, I also would like to mention a fairly big plot-hole in the very end which feels like a deux ex machina.
Despite all of my criticism above, this is a very easy read. If you are looking for grimdark you will not find it here at all, but for anybody in the mood for light fantasy this should be the right place to look.
This review is a copy/paste of my LeafMarks one: https://www.leafmarks.com/lm/#/users/10968/books/51161/review