An enjoyable and unusual story in which a Dickenesian beginning morphs into a cross between The Neverending Story and Alice in Wonderland, combined with perfectly deadpan asides that may make you chuckle, scratch your head, or roll your eyes. (I was glad that this facet of the story never reached the somewhat-annoying-false-personality level of Lemony Snicket or Pseudonymous Bosch.) As in Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society series, children are not seen as helpless and are considered in many ways more worthy of and equal to the story than adults are.
Warning: There is a surprising amount of violence and death for a book of this kind, including one scene which implies that some children are killed in battle by a power-hungry king and their own drugged parents. (Weirdly enough, the resolution appeared to ignore this, acting instead as if everyone survived that particular fight, which seemed very unlikely to me.)
On the whole, I enjoyed the story, and I will be reading the sequel as well.