This book started off slowly, making me wonder if I was ever going to really like Sinda as a character. Her passive reactions to some very emotionally charged situations were off-putting, to say the least. However, once she "found herself" (or more specifically, her magic), she became almost an entirely different person. Taking charge of her life gave her a newfound sense of purpose and I enjoyed the journey she took to the city and all the way through the conspiracy she stumbled upon. She has to make some very realistic choices as to how to protect the people she cares about and you know what? Sometimes she makes mistakes. That's how I like my characters.
I feel like O'Neal dropped the ball in not to exploring the relationship Sinda had with the king and queen - we got a short bit (right before the truth was revealed) about how little she sees them and barely a complete thought about them as parents afterward.
The writing itself occasionally carried too much exposition, introspection on things that seemed obvious to me - but I have to remember that it was written for a young adult audience. There were a few threads that I wish were picked up on a little more - Sinda's birth mother, for example. We know she left Sinda's father and he died heart-broken, but what else? What were her motivations? Where did she come from? The only information we were given was through Sinda's aunt, who is a biased character.
That being said, I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel to this where Sinda and Mika/Nalia grow into their respective roles as indicated at the end of the novel. There's plenty of political conspiracy to go around! The romantic tension angle doesn't even need to be a part of it (not that that tension was particularly taut in the first ...)