I love this book. I read it years and years ago, and then just last week something reminded me of it and I dug it out to read again.
Let me say that this is one of the few heroine-talks-to-animals books I really enjoy! A lot of novels tend to either over- or under-play it, or both at once, so the heroine can spend hours talking to her Amazing Animal Friends and being linked to them by destiny or innate goodness or something and then never talk to them again unless it's relevant to the plot. This is not one of those novels. Rosie talks to animals all the time, because honestly why wouldn't you. (Also it is part of her job. She loves her job.)
I love the worldbuilding in this book. There's a fair amount of exposition, but it's interesting exposition, and I could read five hundred pages about all the stuff ordinary people do to handle living with so much magic that will do anything if given half a chance. (You have to say "bread, stay bread" before you cut it unless you want to end up cutting into a flock of starlings! THIS IS SO INTERESTING TO ME.) And spindles! There are so many spindles and talking about spindle-making in this book, but it is NOT ENOUGH.
What really surprised me on this re-read was how many lady characters there are! Katriona and Aunt and Rosie and Peony and Pernicia and Sigil and the Queen. The only human dudes are love interests and Ikor. Oh, Ikor. He gets a bit of a bad rap because he's the bearer of bad news, and Rosie doesn't really get along with him, but I love him a lot and I wish we got more of him, though there isn't really room for it. We should have a spin-off book! IKOR: Tales of Being the One Black Dude in Pseudo-European Fantasyland.
Anyway: I enjoyed how the most important relationships in this book are between ladies, particularly between Rosie and Peony, who are quite different people who accidentally became best friends. Peony is so suited to being a high-class lady, and Rosie is so emphatically not (people try to mess with her by going YOU'RE JUST A LOW-CLASS UNCULTURED HORSE-LEECH and she's like YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT I AM) and their relationship is the lynchpin of the whole story.
My very favorite thing (I am lying; everything I've talked about in this post is my favorite) are the descriptions of people falling in love, or being in love, or realizing after a long time that they've been and are still in love. This book is not really about the romance, which is very refreshing, so there are only a couple of them; but they're very striking, and something of their essence has stayed with me for years.
...this is not really a coherent review, but I'm just gonna leave it there and go to bed.