There are going to be spoilers, so Sparkly, please don’t read this yet.
This is a really sad book, but first I just want to talk about one thing: Clariel, the main character, is asexual and aromantic. The word the characters use is “singleton”, by which they mean someone who isn’t interested in sex or romance, and so doesn’t want to get married or have romantic relationships. It doesn’t play a big role in the plot, but it’s there. She discusses it with other people a few times, and gets some “you’ll understand when you’re older” type reactions. She talks about her experiences with sex (not too negative, just totally uninteresting) and that her lack of romantic feelings for the male character who shows interest in her isn’t specific to him; the whole idea of romance and romantic love makes her uncomfortable. So yeah. Aroace main character, you guys.
This is not a happy book, though. Partly because, if you’ve read the previous books in the same universe, you know where Clariel is going to end up several hundred years from now, and it’s not pleasant. But even aside from that, she spends the whole book feeling hurt and frustrated and confused because she doesn’t fit in, she’s way out of her depth (in both magical monsters and a potential overthrow of the government) and the adults in her life keep letting her down.
The people who should be keeping her safe, or at least giving her the information she needs, instead help her when it’s convenient, use her to further their plans, and keep her out of the loop until her uninformed attempts to solve things almost kill her. She has enormous innate talents, but, thinking that she has to solve everything herself, she voluntarily jumps in even further out of her depth than she was already. Almost her first deliberate use of her powers is to grab a metaphorical tiger (literally a supernatural being of pure magic) by the tail. She gets to feel powerful, in control of herself and talented for once for barely a couple of hours before it runs her to exhaustion, slips out of her control and nearly kills her.
At the end of the book she’s barely alive, her ability to use magic is permanently damaged and semi-permanently disabled, and she finally gets the chance to live a solitary, peaceful life in the woods, the only thing she’s really wanted since the start of the book.
Unfortunately, we know that she is going to get the chance to use her powers again, and it’s going to end even worse than it did this time.