The romance in this book is overwhelming. It's overwhelming to the plot, to the characters, to the tone of the story. It's almost instantaneous and continues without abating throughout the whole book. You can't escape it. At certain points, it becomes too much to deal with.
Sure, the part that doesn't involve romance reminds me a lot of a Diana Wynn Jones novel. Except that instead of loving every moment of it, I found it hard to connect to the characters at all. This made it difficult to care for their plight. A plight that, which I might add, ended abruptly with little or no resolution.
The book jumps points of view between the two main characters, Iolanthe Seabourne and Titus VII. Jumps can happen at any time. Sometimes it happens between chapters, sometimes within the same chapter at a page break. Sadly, it doesn't happen with anything akin to predictability. Page breaks and new chapters do not necessarily mean reading from a different perspective. Still, the story is easy to follow despite this. The narrative voice is never left ambiguous.
The world is similar to a thousand others like it. The only saving grace is their magical training ground, the crucible. Inside a book full of fairy tales and historical mythology lies a lush and exquisite landscape for a mage to hone their skills. They can practice in a meadow by their lonesome or battle their way through any number of fantastical tales. They can also use it for extremely dangerous travel through books of the same type.
Even at the end of the book, I cared little for the characters. Nothing really drew me to them even though the prose kept me attentive. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. Depending on the synopsis of the next book, I may or may not continue this series.