This was so much better than Reaper's Gale. That particular book seemed to wallow in the meaningless. This one, however, sought meaning in tragedy, and that is one of the things I have enjoyed so much about this series. I may discuss spoilers from previous books. I'm not sure why anyone would be reading reviews of book 8 if you haven't read the previous books, but just in case, that is your warning.
You will find, right away upon starting this book, that it is narrated by Kruppe. I wasn't sure how I felt about that, at first. I rather liked him in Gardens of the Moon, but I found him incredibly annoying in Memories of Ice. But I wound up enjoying his narration quite a bit. So, don't be discouraged by him. Remember, though, he is the Eel, and he's not the bumbling idiot he pretends to be. Actually, there was a lot less of that in here, which made him a lot easier to like.
I was pleased to see Anomander Rake in this one. And the return of Itkovian, made apparent near the beginning of the book as well. He was my favorite character. I cried over him in book three, and I was almost too happy to keep reading when I read about him in this book. And then, becoming aware of incredible danger to him, I was really stressed about him for most of the book. I won't say how that went.
The story mostly travels between Black Coral and Darujhistan. Mostly. The two arcs were not particularly connected, and I often found I was quite attached to what was happening in one, and then I'd get pulled over to the other location. But this is what Erikson does, of course.
The journey throughout was compelling, and I enjoyed it. My only complaint was some occasional predictability, and I'm not even sure if it's truly predictable to the average person, or if it's just that I've come to know what to expect from this series. The ending was gorgeous. Amidst tragedy, and some teary-eyed sniffling on my part, it explored themes of selflessness that were incredibly poignant. Endings are absolutely what this author does best. I think I'll need to let this one marinate a bit before I move on to the next one, because it was quite heavy, and one heck of a ride.