Like the title says, I thought this book would be a standalone. Seeing as they set it up for a sequel, it makes the pacing more sensible. It felt very much like a long windup, for a sudden change of pace that I liked, and it suddenly it was over. Most of the book felt like a very long exposition waiting for a story to begin. And really the book ends with one story wrapping up quickly as the other story really begins on their quest.
I did really appreciate that the two stories ended up mingling in a way I hadn't imagined, which threw me in a pleasant way.
As for the characters, I wished some of them had more time, others I don't see why they were included at all. Maybe it's just me because I'm bad with names and several of the names were similar so I kept getting confused on who had what significance up until the very end. Even now I'm not entirely sure I know who everyone was.
Overall, it wasn't a bad book to read, I was just expecting a faster pace and didn't really get that until the very end, so I was disappointed for a lot of it. Beautiful imagery and a new way to look at a type of magic. Much of the book had a different rhythm and speech to it that definitely transported me to a new world that not many other books I've read have been able to accomplish.