What a pleasant surprise! A good friend of mine, with whom I don't share many reading preferences, mentioned that this author was one of her favourite fantasy authors. Now, as far as I know, fantasy isn't her usual thing, so curious me, I took a look at the link. I liked the sound of it and asked her if this was a good place to start with this author and she said yes and admitted that he was a friend of hers. So, all that being said, I cracked open the book - virtually, on my new Kobo H2O. *LOL*
Hetley has a definite authorial voice. It took me a few chapters to get used to his way of writing. It's by no means bad, or off-putting, or anything negative, it's just different. If I had to describe it, he sounds very Canadian. *LOL* Even though he's not. He comes from Maine apparently, where the book is set. Maybe that's close enough. :)
So we're not talking fantasy made up of elves and dwarves and wizards and mystical realms here. This is modern fantasy with nature witches, Native American traditions and mythologies, a little Welsh water magic thrown in along with a dash of dragon and some ... South American magic? It all works. :)
And the characters! OMG, I really came to love them. They're so far from perfect that at times I really disliked each and every one of them but that just made them all the more real. I quite enjoyed the emphasis on the women's perspective. It came across as very real, very sensible and not ... how can I say it... not Mary Sue-ish perfect?
If you're looking for a new contemporary fantasy author to try, I would easily recommend James Hetley. I don't know how well he's known, all I know is that I'd never heard of him before my buddy mentioned him. And you know what? I could see this being made into a TV series along the lines of True Blood or Charmed or The Witches of East End.
And yes, while this is the first book in a series, it definitely does stand alone, no cliffhangers here. The only reason you'll need to get the next book is because you want to read it!