I received this book as an ARC through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
I was a little bit apprehensive when I requested this. It sounded like a really good premise, and I wanted to read it, but I didn't love the author's first series, it wasn't badly written, just too relentlessly dark for me. So, I waited before I started this. What was I thinking. I really loved this book, and sometimes it's hard for me to write a review for a book I really love, but I will endeavor to do so.
First of the world building was really well done. The setting was so well drawn it felt like a real place to me, and I loved the complexity of the society, and religion. I especially loved how the religion was structured. It felt different, and I appreciate that it wasn't an existing religion reformatted for a fantasy setting. The writing was engrossing, and it was one of the books I found myself getting lost in, and I love that.
I really liked Yarvi. He was a complicated, and deeply flawed character without being a complete ass. It was refreshing reading about someone this clever who has been trained to always look for an opening, or an opportunity. Someone who doesn't spend 90% of the book whining about how his life didn't turn out the way he wanted, and how horrible his situation is. Not that he doesn't have moments where he feels bad for himself, he is young, but the book isn't entirely comprised of his bitching, and complaining.
The secondary cast was well developed, and interesting. No one, not even incidental characters, felt like stereotypes or archetypes. There were no simple mustache twirling villains, or simpering, innocent maids. Characters had a diversity of motives and personalities. I really loved the way the characters interacted. It was smart, clever, and funny. The banter was a highlight for me, and reminded me a lot of the Princess Bride, high praise in my book. I also loved the bond that develops between Yarvi and his company. They have to learn to trust in each other, and I enjoyed seeing that develop. The lack of focus on romantic relationships was refreshing especially considering the situation they were in.
The plot was well drawn, and I loved the twists and turns. It felt authentic without feeling to relentlessly bleak or happy. I can't take a book where it feels like the author has to crush every momentary happiness the characters might happen to feel. On the other hand I hate when a book tries to convince you that the characters are suffering, and it feels more like that they are only mildly inconvenienced. The last twist was well done, and it fed into the ending really well. I really loved that ending. It was happy, but in a more unexpected sort of way. I'm sad to see it end, but I can't wait to read the next one.