As the children walk to their supposed death, and the gate of the city is closed behind them, they are suddenly magically transported in to a world more wonderful than they ever knew exited. The children see bright colors and experience music and art for the first time. So here is problem #2. The author records their response to their miraculous rescue as a group. Except for one dissenter child, all the children act in tandem. They gasp as a group, they look around wide eyed as a group. The author even suggests that they are all thinking the same thing at the same time. So that is a tidy way to relate that part of the story, but in real life people do not act in tandem. They have similar feelings and reactions, but if someone tells us they are feeling the and doing the exact same thing at the same time, we do not believe them. It would have worked better if the reader would have seen Alex's thoughts, and seen through Alex's eyes what one or two of the other children were doing. Then the reader would naturally extrapolate that the group as a whole were having similar feelings. Does that make sense?
We, as human beings have a limited ability to take in detail. We don't perceive everything with which we come in contact. When we see a tree, we don't look at every leaf on every branch. We see a few leaves on one branch, and then we notice that there are more, so we assume that the other leaves and branches are like the one we looked at more closely. The part suggests the whole. The opening scenes of the book would have worked better if McMann would have given us the part in more detail, and then just suggested the whole.
OK, that was long winded. The rest of the book got better, and I actually enjoyed the story. The magic system was based on art. The children learn fighting spells that are associated with painting, singing, dancing and acting, which I thought was kind of fun. The interpersonal relationships were quite complicated. How does one feel toward your family if they gave you up to be killed without regret? Reader beware that in the final battle some of the children face their own parents and siblings, and the family members try to kill each other. So if that bothers you you might want to skip this one. (390 p.)