A very good book, despite some general slowness in the plot department. Actually, the vast majority of this book felt like setup for the next one, which may turn a lot of people off. For myself, the characters were interesting enough that I wanted to keep reading about them even when it didn't seem like much was going on, and that, I think, is one of Abraham's greatest strengths - excellent characterizations. Even the "villains" - and despite the focus on rather morally-grey individuals in this novel, there are indeed some villains - even they were fascinating to read about. I hated Dawson Kalliam as much as I liked Marcus Wester, but I found both of them equally compelling as characters.
I don't want to make it sound as if absolutely nothing happened, though. There was a coup, an assassination attempt, a few murders, some betrayal, a major battle, and an entire city got razed to the ground. All told, that's actually fairly action-packed. It's just that it felt as if there was a certain amount of de-emphasis on these events in favour of the inter-personal relations of the various characters, and I don't really feel as if action and character-building are mutually exclusive. I did love that the climax of the novel was Cithrin getting her new bank audited. I found myself looking forward to this part, actually, and it was just as interesting as I thought it would be.
One less minor gripe that I have about the book is to do with the worldbuilding, specifically the way in which Abraham presented his non-human races. I understand what he was going for, I think. I believe he was trying to avoid cheesy info-dumps explaining the differences between the races, and I agree that this is something commonly mishandled by fantasy authors. I simply feel that of the races that featured in the story, Abraham was a little too subtle in his physical descriptions. Okay, the Tralgu are large with ears that flick back and forth. The Kurtadam have fur commonly put into beads. The Dartinae have glowing eyes. These descriptors aside, we're never given a comprehensive account of exactly what these people LOOK like. Because of this, I found it really hard to picture any of these races, which may have slowed my immersion into the story.
Oh, well. Maybe we'll get more info in the next book.