I genuinely liked this book, for a lot of reasons– from the clever tweaking of Narnia (there’s something great about Ember and Umber) on up.
I think the central reason I liked it, though, was that, heavy-handed as it frequently was, I liked the Bildungsroman aspect of the text, the way it captured being at that point in your life in your late teens or early twenties where you aren’t sure just how self-absorbed and -interested to be; when you fuck up ethically, badly, and try to figure out what to do next. I don’t know many books that really engage with that first ethical crashing-and-burning, and I appreciated it, and frankly identified with it.
But Jesus, the ending of the book almost spoiled it: the final scene takes it from pulpy but sensitive (something quite like Buffy, honestly) to some lame movie that’s setting up the sequel. Even the Harry Potter books are better than that.