Once you get past what I can only describe as an extended prologue and the main character gets captured, this book gets pretty awesome. You follow along as the character's hope is crushed, making you wonder how any humans will ever get out of the situation alive. The tension ramps up quickly and I found it difficult to put the book down. So it definitely made up for the momentary lapse in good writing at the beginning.
Things I liked:
The slavery aspect. I've always loved a good slave uprising book, and this one is the kind where you realize you've been a slave your whole life and never knew it until they showed their hand. The only thing that annoyed me was at the end, how the Warden just assumes she needs to lead the slaves, when the people have no reason to trust her. She's been different from all of them from the beginning. She's had an elevated status over the amaurotics, and she's been kept separate from the pink & reds. Why would any of them follow her?
The constant tension over whether her master is actually a good person, making you wonder if she's just falling into a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. I love it when a character can't determine who's an ally. The romance seemed a little tacked on, though, I will say. I liked that she didn't try to stay with him, and he didn't go with her, and that he knew it would be best if they never saw each other ever again. She only fell for him because of the fact that he's pure aether, anyway. And from the descriptions of the creatures, I would've found a sex scene between them repulsive. Which is why I doubt I'll read the sequel... I'm betting that'll happen sooner or later.
Things that didn't work:
The first 5% of this book is telling, not showing, the whole way through. You barely get outside the character's head enough to even orient yourself as to where you are. It's as though the first 5% is written by someone else, or the author just took their "backstory" file and dumped it into the book as an extended prologue.
For a publisher as big as this one, I was surprised at how many errors there were in this book. I remember at least one typo any word processor would've caught ("theif"). A couple mangled sentences. And the ebook formatting was probably the worst I've ever managed to read. The paragraphs barely had an indent, so if one paragraph ended close to the right margin, I often wouldn't realize a new paragraph started on the next line, because its first sentence was too close to the left margin.