Bakker should have called this book "Bad Things Happening To Bad People".
Okay, so that's a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, one of the weaknesses of this book was the fact that many(if not all) of the main characters are fairly hard to sympathize with. Achamian's all right, but somewhat of a bumbler. Kellhus is completely devoid of anything resembling a conscience. Cnaiur(I don't know how to spell this name properly, as this author is in love with the umlaut) is a badass fighter, but also a woman-beating rapist. The Emperor and his nephew are both despicable lunatics. The two most sympathetic characters are Esmenet and Serwe, the prostitute and the concubine.
Which brings me to the other, somewhat glaring, weakness of this otherwise excellent debut novel; the lack of female characters. There are a handfull met in passing, but you really only get to know two female characters, both of them occupying different roles in the sex trade, one of whom is repeatedly raped. I think it's telling that these characters happen to be the two who are the easiest to like, and yet it's hard not to be somewhat troubled by the depictions of women in the series thus far. I get the impression that Bakker is going somewhere with this, so I'll try to withhold judgement on this particular point until I've read further into the series.
All that aside, this is a great read, and a very promising debut. Bakker's prose is interesting and dynamic, using unusual descriptions to vividly paint scenes in a succinct manner. His world-building is impressive - intimidating, even - and his take on fantasy thought-provoking. I'm looking forward to digging into the next one.