Walls does so many things right in this stand-alone fantasy, it's hard to know where to start.
Tybolt and Auriella are Deviants --which is not as bad as it sounds, it just means that they're immune to magic. As such, they are part of the King's force devoted to hunting down Wizards. Thanks to the most powerful Wizard in recent history, Eriroc is in the midst of devastating drought, wholly dependent on trade with other nations for basic food supplies -- which are barely enough to keep people fed enough to survive.
There's something different about Tybolt than the other Hunters (and, come to think of it, most people in the King's favor) -- he uses the money he makes to help out those less fortunate and spends a lot of time with them. Aurielle doesn't treat everyone as cruelly as the other fortunate souls do, but she certainly pays no heed to anyone she doesn't have to and doesn't understand their plight. She's not a bad person -- just oblivious, at least when we meet her. Tybolt has a great sense of humor to go with his heart, he can enjoy the simple things in life -- and would do anything to get Aurielle to think of him in any way other than co-worker. If you don't like Tybolt from the get-go, watching his charitable efforts should win you over. Asher is another Hunter who has little to do with Tybolt initially, but eventually comes to play a pivotal role in the events of the book, but you'll have to take my word for it -- and as unimportant as he seems to be at the beginning, that'll change. Just pay attention to him.
Walls' worldbuilding is great -- on the one hand, it's standard Fantasy fare, enough that you instantly have a good idea about the world, the culture, the conditions and politics. But she tweaks it just enough to make it her own, and differentiate it from the rest. Sometimes I wondered why she constructed things the way she did -- or why she revealed them in the way she did -- but in the end, I saw (well, think I saw) the reasoning behind both and could appreciate her choices.
The plot is pretty conventional, and within a few chapters there are few readers who will not know pretty exactly how the rest of the story will go. But I didn't mind -- Walls hits every beat just right, every reveal is pulled off capably, the voice used is engaging and the fun and humanity of the situation shines through enough that the reader doesn't demand novelty. Sincerity can be just as winning as innovation, and Walls pulls that off. There were a couple of character deaths you saw coming from miles away and I still was shocked by them when they happened, ditto for "aww" moments.
I, like the book, focused on the heroic hunters above. But there are plenty of other characters running around -- the King is despicable, and there are a handful of Hunters that are probably worse (and seem to pull the rest along with them). But none of them are cartoons -- there are several characters that aren't all that heroic or evil -- they're just trying to survive (which can be heroic in a not-that-heroic way), and are well-executed. No matter where they fall on the moral scale, the characters work -- developed enough to fulfill their role in the book (and maybe a little more).
This book isn't going to blow anyone away -- but it will entertain, it will keep you turning pages and will engage you in its world and the lives of its characters. It's a good, fun read. There's excitement, a dash of romance, some magic and a few good fight scenes -- pretty much what you want from a fantasy. Oh, and there's a good definitive end -- no series commitment! It'll satisfy you and probably make you want to read more of Walls' material.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for this post.