I would give this book to fans of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It is dark, violent, yet hopeful. There is some pretty good world building and a number of characters I grew quite fond of. There was a violent, not well understood takeover of the country of Lumatere consisting of several areas I will call states. There were massacres, burnings at the stake and many many refugees running and running getting out of this land just before the gates were sealed, trapping unfortunates inside and out of communications with relatives and leaders on the outside. Finnikin, whose father was once captain of the king's guard and the kings first man have been travelling the worlds outside of Lumatere recording the dead and living, the refugee camps and hoping to plan a way to get back into Lumatere and take it back from the impostor rulers.
Along the way they take on a silent, highly competent, angry novice from a cloister who calls herself Evanjalin when she decides to talk and a violent preteen orphan who has stolen from them among other things. Evanjalin seems to excel in lies and manages to get Finnikin incarcerated in the mine prisons where he discovers his father. They carefully plan a successful escape and join others left from the former guard. About five years has passed while Finnikin and Sir Tropher did their survey of refugees. Another five years seems to have past as Finnikin, the guard and other able bodied Lumatere refugees plan their attack on the closed gate. Finnikin and Evanjalin have grown to care for each other and Finnikin to discover her true identity. Evanjalin, is a dreamwalker who shares dreams with those inside and relives every death of a Lumatere over and over. She has managed to communicate the coming attack to the survivors. The captors sense something is up and burn the capitol city just as Finikin and his guard break through the gate. There is help of the Lumatere gods along the way. As the country recaptured rebuilds itself there are concerns for the future. Might they have been taken over by another country as a passage to a attack a distant powerful country? Should Lumatere plan their own attack, against who? This seems to be an opening for a second volume. JDW 9/10/10