I loved most of this book. The characters are fascinating. The world Staveley has created is rich with detail, and the action and plot will leave you guessing until the very end. The only thing about this book that I didn’t care for was the way it was laid out. I think the prologue, as a prologue, was meaningless. I did go back to read it after I had learned more about the world I was in, but it didn’t make much sense as the first thing you read in the book. I almost wish the book would have been divided into four parts: one for each of the Emperor’s children (telling their particular stories) and then one for how those stories converge heading towards the end of the book. Going back and forth into each character’s story was fine, but it let up a little on the intensity when you switch to another person right when things are heating up. There is also a lot to learn about the world, the people, the culture(s) and the plot.
Still, most of the characters in the book break away from their fantasy archetypes. The ones that may have been give short shrift in this book could find more depth as the series continues.
If you’re a fantasy fan, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t pick this one up.