The main problem of this book was that (especially in the first half) it didn't really feel like a fantasy romance but more like it was jumping between being a (really good) fantasy-novel and being a (unfortunately only mediocre) romance. For some time Katya was off hunting traitors and saving the kingdom and then we suddenly got a chapter where the oldest and most annoying romance-tropes got dug out again and we got all the misunderstandings, slamming doors and making up again almost immediately afterwards one usually only expects in soap-operas (while you just wanted to scream 'shouldn't you worry about that assassin who almost managed to kill the king?').
That was really a pity because the fantasy-part was really great and actually surprised me more than once by subverting tropes or simply introducing something completely unexpected (I fear I have to stay so vague because I don't want to spoil anything).
Fortunately in the second half it worked a lot better (once Starbride's role became more active and she and Katya were saving the kingdom together) and the romance in general became less clichéd and just really sweet instead.
While I applaud the book for not falling in the same trap as so many fantasy-novels and doing massive infodumps it almost goes to much in the other direction. There were actually things I wanted to have a bit more background on (for example I am not quite sure if Allusia and Farraday are two different countries, if Allusia is a province or something similar).
Something I found really great about the book was how sex was treated: it's a fun thing to do, lot's of people have it and while you don't tell everybody in great detail about it it's nothing to be ashamed of and wanting it is not a bad thing. While there is an unlikeable character who rather relentlessly pursues Katya, she is not portrayed in a negative light because she dares to do that but because she doesn't take Katya's hints that she's not interested. Another side-character who rather shamelessly flirts with somebody else is not judged for doing so and becomes in fact quite a good friend of Starbride.
And even though we do again have an experienced character (Katya) and a virgin (Starbride) it doesn't make a big deal out of it. That's just how it is. Besides, not having had sex does not equal blushing everytime sex comes up. In fact there is a hilarious conversation between Starbride and her servant after the two tried to cheer Katya's cousin up who is having some troubles and feeling down. After she leaves we get this gem:
“The princess will be happy you could turn her [cousin's] mind to other things,” Dawnmother said.
“Not if she repeats the tale of the farmer’s son and the midwife.”
“It’s only a saucy story.”
The humour was another great thing about the story. More than once I found myself grinning or giggling because the characters rarely loose their sense of humour (and show that). In fact the funny bits were probably what “saved” the book from three to four stars as, additionally to the issues I already mentioned I was also slightly disappointed by the ending because it felt like the author decided shortly before the end to make this the start of a series and therefore needed some open ends.