The Medium is like the force, or like the One Power in The Wheel of Time. It works like magic, but can only be wielded by people of certain lineages. Only people who can use the Medium can activate Leering Stones. Leering Stones are simply stones carved to look like faces that are useful in calling different elements of the Medium. There are leering stones for water and leering stones for fire etc. The elders, or maesters (Song of Ice and Fire) are called Aldermastons. They are strong in the Medium and are found at Abbeys. Learners go to the Abbeys to learn to read and write. Only Learners and those educated in the Medium can do so. The lowest caste, so it seems, are called the Wretched. The wretched are like orphans and are given last names that state their use. The main character is Lia Cook, a wretched who works in the kitchens of Muirwood Abbey, her deepest desire is to learn to read. The people who work in the laundry go by the last name of Lavendar etc. The premise of the story is that Lia is awakened one night by someone seeking aid for an injured man. Lia takes the man in and has to hide him until the man who brought him in returns. After sending the injured man into a trap, Lia seeks to rescue him. What follows is a journey across the country, all the while being chased by the authorities. She discovers a great many things along the way, including how the Medium works (but she still has much to learn. This is a book series after all).
That was probably the most boring synopsis I have written. Just to describe the book takes a lot of effort. Watership Down is the same way. The review should be easier. Once I learned that the book was about a girl who wanted to read and use magic, I thought I should finish the book. The writing was excellent, and the concept was for the most part, original. There was very little romance in the book (which was a bonus for me), and my favorite part was the Medium. The Medium is basically Tao, or the Force. It cannot be controlled, but it can be used. I'm interested to learn what comes next and to what extent the Medium can be used.
The characters are decent. I don't really love any of them. Lia is haughty, Colvin is rude (is this a Pride and Prejudice setup?). My favorite character is not a main character, and I don't think we'll be seeing too much of him in the next couple books. Jon Hunter, I'm guessing he is a Wretched based on the fact that his last name is his occupation. I think you're supposed to like Lia, the spunky, rebellious, independent girl. I don't. So many "spunky, rebellious, and independent" girls are written this way, and I don't like it. So hard on the outside, but so fragile on the inside. Why does it always have to be that way? Anyway, there are authors who can write someone that you want so badly to like, but that you just can't. The Brontes are good at that. There are authors who can make you loathe someone, and then slowly and sneakily make you love them. George R. R. Martin is one of those. The problem with Lia is that you are supposed to like her and her attitude. I don't.
Beyond the characters, I like the concept enough to keep reading the series. I will always appreciate someone who places an importance on words and their power. It's worth reading. Give it a shot and let me know what you think!