I picked these two up because I wanted to read Patricia Briggs' backlog. These two books are a duology that is pretty straight fantasy with some unique elements. I think these are quite good because of the main character – Ward of Hurog who is also the narrator most of the time (the first book has a first person point of view throughout and the second book switches from first person from Wards POV to third person centering on someone else).
There is a lot of emotional, verbal, and physical abuse heaped Ward and his two siblings by their father the Hurogmerten. Ward pretends to be stupid after he was beaten so badly he had to relearn how to talk, and loses his magical abilities. Meanwhile his sister is a mute and his brother tried to commit suicide. The first person viewpoint is unusual in fantasy I think, but it works because we see Ward's thought process before he acts like a slow giant and understand what he's trying to do. When Ward's father dies, you see that sometimes Ward's act is too good – now he's generally thought unfit to rule his Keep, and his uncle has to "help" him in the transition while talk of committing him to the King's Asylum circles him. The two books deal with the aftermath of Ward's father's death and Ward's long battle to keep control of his beloved home, while of course dealing with a despot of a King and the usual political intruiges. It's hard to tell who is on his side and who is not, because it turns out he's not the only one pretending to be something in order to stay alive. On top of all that is the fantastical aspect – odd powers and ghosts that are unique to Ward and Hurog (which means dragon). There is also a bit of a romance in here, but not really a large part – just overall a side story and not a focus. Sweet nonetheless. Also there is the group journey thing, but not quite quest-like, more like moving strategically as in war.
Overall, if you like fantasy these are worth a read. Very interesting plot and well written. I liked it a LOT better than Briggs' Hob's Bargain which I wasn't that fond of, but there were some aspects that I feel nitty over:
1) The weird first person to third person switches in the second book. A bit jarring.
2) There's a lot of rape or alluding to rape. At least 3 main characters. An interesting trend along with the other types of abuse described. I don't know what to make of it. In some ways I didn't like it even though it sort of revealed some characters evil or other characters overcoming their past. I dislike it but not as negatively as I do disliked it in certain other books. Hmm, maybe because it wasn't central to the plot. I don't know.