Jessamin is a perfect main character. She defies society's conventions, but instead of feeling forced or modern, like so many books, it works because she's foreign, and it makes a difference. She's strong, independent, and determined to make her own choices (you can see one of the reasons the title works so well). Because she's an outsider, we also get to see Albion through her eyes, introducing us to the country and the world of the book in an organic way.
It's not just Jessamin who is wonderful. You can't help but love Finn, of course. He's gorgeous, smart, sweet, and mysterious. He's the reason this story takes place, the single factor that starts everything, but the story ends with Jessamin. But the good characters don't end there. Possibly my absolute favorite is the girl who becomes Jessamin's best friend, Eleanor. She's bubbly, vivacious, and deceptively cunning in the best way possible. She's one of those characters I would love to be best friends with, and she steals the spotlight whenever she enters the story.
As for the villains, they are horribly evil in the best way possible. Besides shadowing her with black birds (Hitchcock's The Birds, anyone---so creepy), he tortures Jessamin at their first meeting, threatens and attacks her friends, and constantly manipulates everything. He's always one step ahead, brilliantly plotting war and destruction all for his own power.
As for the world, honestly, it reminded me of Victorian England with a sort of steampunk twist. The enemy on the continent was France, and while I'm not sure exactly which colony Jessamin would have come from, it's easy to imagine. Really, it's the magic that's the world building draw to this book. Plus, the fast pace keeps the plot from ever bogging down.
Basically, if you're looking for a wonderful stand-alone, historical fantasy type book, look no further. This is a fun, romantic, action packed adventure I would recommend to just about everyone. It's a strong 4 stars for me, and honestly, I'm hoping Kiersten White decides to write more in this world . . . maybe a spin-off story from Eleanor's POV? I'm keeping my finger's crossed.