The beginning of this book really didn't work for me. I forced my way through due to the goodwill created by my enjoyment of the previous books, and having been pre-warned by fans of previous series. Over one hundred pages at the beginning of the book of one character: Karsa Orlong. And he's really hard to take. He's initially a completely awful person. Even setting aside the pillaging and raping that make me wince at the idea of recommending this to my female friends, he's also an arrogant jerk. This background on Karsa, aside from being unpleasant, difficult reading, also just does not fit with the format of this book, or the previous books. It's really inconsistent, and I don't care for that.
After we get past the intolerably long stretch of Karsa Orlong, the book moves on to the familiar format of the previous books, with the storyline moving between several main characters. This was a great relief, although I found things somewhat slower than past books, particularly after the gripping emotional roller coaster that was Memories of Ice. Until the climax, this book is just far less eventful than the previous book.
I was happy to see familiar faces that I didn't get to see in a while. Particularly, Cotillion was just about all over the place. I had the sense that he must be cooking up something huge, and that I was going to love it. Ultimately, I have yet to see if that was going anywhere. But I still enjoyed seeing him meddling in human affairs. and I realize this series often has long-term payoffs.
The center of this particular story was the impending confrontation between Sha'ik's army and Adjunct Tavore's. Sha'ik has the advantage of numbers, and Tavore appears to be without a chance, but of course there wouldn't be much of a story if it were really that simple. The conclusion of this particular conflict was a punch in the gut. I'm still reeling from the tragedy of it, while realizing that there was no happy way it could have ended. But nobody reads this series expecting happy conclusions by now, right? The conclusion was the right one. It made up for a great deal of my previous issues. As far as the central story went, to me it was perfection.
Other plot threads were enjoyable but had far less closure. I'm hoping to see more of Trull Sengar and Onrack, for instance, quite soon. I would have liked to see more of where they were going.
Overall, despite portions of this book that could have been better, it is an enjoyable, well-orchestrated story that left me feeling satisfied.