Decided it was time to switch things up a bit and read something a little different. Had this book for awhile now and decided it was time to finally read up on it. As a fan of the 'Avatar: the Last Airbender' and 'The Legend of Korra' as well as enjoying Jim Dresden's 'Codex Alera' series this trilogy that has elemental magic seemed like a good option.
Iolanthe is a young woman who has been living her life doing magic with a drunk guardian when she is plunged into an adventure where she must destroy the Bane, a tyrant who seeks to control all. She meets Prince Titus, the ruler (in name, really) of the land and who needs Iolanthe to defeat the Bane to restore peace to the land as foreseen by his mother's visions.
Admittedly typing that out made it sound like a cliched, well-worn trope-filled story and it is. It's not a story that hasn't been done before and admittedly Thomas' entry isn't exactly a unique take. But all the same I found myself enjoying the story anyway. There are familiar aspects to this (romance between Iolanthe and Titus, training sequences, can the two main characters learn to trust each other) but all the same it was still a pleasant adventure. I enjoyed the sequences where Iolanthe must play Titus's male classmate (he had actually been expecting a young man).
That said, I understand the criticisms. The world-building isn't great (there's no map!) the elemental magic isn't as well-defined as say it is in Dresden's books or the Avatar universe and I could have really done without the romance.The romance was subtle (it's also limited to looks and thoughts and occasional kisses but as a YA series it doesn't go further than that) but it's never my cup of tea. The book is also quite slow. Having read a few other of Thomas's books (including her historical romances and the first in the Charlotte Holmes series) I could see this book would be somewhat similar--more focus on the characters and not so much on the action.
Still, I liked it. I suppose it's really a 3.5 star book but I decided to round up. I had been put off by some of the negative reviews and experience from her previous work but I think recognizing it's quite different from her other writings in terms of genre (YA, fantasy) helped. This won't be the next great YA trilogy but as a mashup of the Avatar universe with the latter part of the Harry Potter series (where Hogwarts and schooling became less of a focus) I enjoyed it. I bought this first book and will likely buy the next two as they're relatively cheap and in paperback but the library is probably a better option for others.