I think it confuses some people, how I use the term "fairy tale" as a descriptor. Of course, there's the actual fairy tales, but generally when I use the term I'm using it to refer to something like this book - the sort of story where things appear because they are needed, no explanation is needed for why things happen, and there's a bit of a morality-based good-and-evil dichotomy.
Aerin is the daughter of the king, and seems to believe she's a pretty big disappointment to people all around. The daughter of a suspected witch, she tries her best to stay out of people's way, avoid society, and seek her own small pleasures. But her convalescence after a particularly stupid decision on her part leads to a new friend, a new discovery and eventually, a new focus in life.
I mostly like Aerin as a main character. She's the hero, and thus is quiet and kind and smart and focused and more or less obedient to her father. She's also weirdly blind to the feelings of another of the court, Tor (and strangely the book assumes we are as well, and spends time pointing out specifically that he's making eyes at her and everyone's talking about his feelings for her, etc. etc.).
It's got the good-and-evil thing going on that happened a lot in fantasy novels of its era, so the people who set themselves against Aerin have almost no redeeming qualities, except that which keeps them in service to the king (for instance, the husband of Aerin's primary enemy at court is also a pretty big jerk, but he's also brave and a good fighter, which is needed for him to serve the king as intended). I can't bring myself to knock off points for that. But I can knock them off for a few other things.
There's a romance in this book that seems to come out of nowhere. I say this as someone who doesn't much care for romance, didn't think this book needed it, and was actually pretty irritated by the other romance option Aerin had just due to the writing style. The guy shows up, helps her out, and suddenly, soulmates. Maybe the point was to show that she wasn't bound by the courtly obligation or some such?
And then she treks off to fight a bad guy we had no investment in as readers, accompanied by an army that just showed up in fairy tale fashion, and engages in a bit of time travel for no reason I could fathom. There's interesting bits in the final third of the book, but to use a sewing metaphor, it seems like they were basted together, but time wasn't taken to join them properly and smoothly.
All together I enjoyed this book, but I didn't find it as engaging as I wanted to. I may have to check out The Blue Sword later.