I was not sure how much I would enjoy this epic fantasy at first. The opening of Grudging begins with a young soldier, Ramiro, hoping to be battle tested in a fantasy world seemingly based on the Spanish empire in America. As I really don't like war stories, I was pleasantly surprised at how much the characters, and the conflict, drew me in.
The story and style remind me somewhat of Rae Carson. There is great world-building and great characterization, from the struggles of Ramiro to overcome his fears and inexperience to the young witch, Claire, who has good reason not to help Ramiro, though she may be his city's only hope. Even the minor characters, such as Ramiro's parents and the leader of the Northerner enemies, are well fleshed out. The novel has a strong climax that completes the story, even while setting up book two.
Michelle Hauck has done a lot to help and promote other writers with her website and contests, which is why I already posted a spotlight about this book, but having purchased and read my own copy, I can attest that she can write a gripping tale as well. 5 of 5 stars. Highly recommended for fantasy lovers.