I'm a little conflicted as to how I should rate or review this one. It's been on my to-read list since it came out and I heard the inspiring tale of the 16-year-old writing prodigy who conceived of it. The fact is, considering the age of the author at the time, the work is quite impressive. The medieval fantasy element is mid-range, well formed and mapped out. And the tone of it feels wedged somewhere right between Middle Grande and Young Adult. Plenty of action, adventure, war-time and fantasy violence--but nothing particularly graphic. There's plenty of self-exploration and coming-of-age introspection to be had as well--making it a potentially valuable piece for young males, especially.
On the flip side, the story doesn't feel particularly original. Elves, Dwarves, sorcerers/magicians, orc-like creatures, telepathic dragons and true-name magic all echo many long-existing high fantasy concepts. And if I hadn't known the age of the author, I'm afraid this reader would be more tempted to find the pacing dragging in places, and the emotional depth a bit lacking. The dialogue also comes off cheesy at times--particularly in action sequences.
Overall, worth a read. And certainly deserving of its popularity in the YA community. I do wonder, though, how this might have been written if the author had honed his craft for another decade or so. The curiosity is enough to make me think I ought to check out his later works.