This one is at SFREVU.
"Asked to define good fantasy fiction, most people will imagine tales of kings and princes and the subtle affairs of wizards in lofty towers, all embellished with rich culture, language and myth that's frequently established by way of lengthy preliminaries to the main tale. Emily Gee's excellent debut novel is proof that turning this template on its head can be superbly effective... The story explores prejudice and ignorance, obligation and reparation, love, guilt, family ties set against individual desire, the relative values of sex, power and money, fear of the past and fear of the future. But that tight focus on the central characters means such themes remain in the background where they belong, to add depth and substance. It's the plot that keeps the pages turning, the pressure mounting, teetering between hope and despair. Where readers might struggle to identify with noble-born characters, the very ordinariness of the life that Melke, Bastian, Liana and Hantje aspire to, means their struggles are all the more understandable, all the more agonizing. Unexpected twists present each individual with challenges demanding heroism every bit as urgently as any armoured prince's call to arms.."
Posted by Mark Newton at 5/08/2007