Why is it that, despite my love for the majority of Tamora Pierce's books, I just don't seem to ever really sink into any of the Winding Circle Temple books? I picked up this one at the library thinking it would be the exception. Nope. It wasn't. And I can't quite figure out why although I spent the next week puzzling over it. All I can think of is that I dislike the introductions that take place at the start of the story and whininess of the main character.
In the first three pages I have two anonymous sailors with speaking lines, the main character (1st person narration), Luvo the 18 inch tall bear-shaped heart of a mountain, Dedicate Rosethorn, a vague mention of some rich boys and their wealthy parents, a vague mention of some anonymous friends, the temple council, and Dedicate Lark. Plus various buildings, cities, and locations. Some of which I'm sure will be relevant as the story continues, some of which probably won't.
In those same three pages, I have the main character (Evvy / Evumeimei) getting yelled at for doing something she's been told multiple times not to do, muttering back-talk to herself, moaning about how much she hates traveling by ship and how much she misses being able to feel rock/land below her, descriptions of herself that make her sound like quite the victim ("It's like the day my mother sold me. She left me with no family and no way to even speak to my new, foreign owner. Aboard a ship, when I wasn't trying to feel the approach of land, I huddled in a corner..."), and whinging about having had to go on the trip in the first place (because she pounded the rich boys back at the temple for picking on her friends).
It's a bit too much like reading my own diary. Not that I have any talking mountain hearts in my life and I'd like to think my diary isn't pure complaints, but I want to read a story about someone who's better than me, someone who makes me want to emulate them slightly. So if she'd pounded the rich boys in a way that hadn't resulted in punishment for her or if she were stoically dealing with the discomfort of travel rather than pouting about it, maybe I would have made it past page 16.
One thing I do love is the text that Steve Scott (the book designer) picked out for the cover and chapter titles. It's absolutely gorgeous.