This is the book that really got me out of my reading slump. I didn’t really have any expectations going into it. I had heard of the series, and that it was one of the better speculative fiction audiobook series, but I had no idea what the premise was. I’m really glad I gave it a shot.
The beginning of the book was a little difficult. Some of that was because I was in a slump and wasn’t getting into any book, but some of it was because early in the book the characters are really flat. Each character was very focused, and it wasn’t until later in the book that they started to express other interests. Logen is all about survival, Luthar is nothing but slacking off his training to go drinking, Glokta is bitterness and torture, and so on. During the second half of the book the expand into new roles and are challenged in new ways, which opens them up as characters and finally gives the sense that they are more than they seem. The one exception is Yulwei, who is introduced far too late to experience the same character development that the others get.
I wasn’t immediately sucked into the world, but it became clear very quickly that it was rich and diverse. I’m not one who maps things out in my head, but I didn’t have much trouble keeping the different nations straight. The magic system was confusing, mostly because so little time was spent exploring it. Bayaz was obviously capable of doing quite a bit, but the apprentice, Malacus, seemed to have no ability at all. I can only assume that the magic will be better defined as the series goes on, but it would have been nice to get a better idea of the rules.
That leads me to one of the most unusual aspects of the book for me. It read like part of a series and not a stand-alone. Usually, it seems like the first book in a series tells a complete story. My guess is that’s usually because authors are unsure whether or not they’ll get to tell the rest of the story. If the first book doesn’t sell well, then there’s no reason to publish subsequent books. This book is different. There wasn’t a lot of plot movement. Instead, the story focuses on positioning the characters. By the time I finished the book, I only had a vague idea of who the villain of the series was, and it would be hard to summarize the plot of the book as a whole. Each character had a story arc, but there didn’t seem to be any overarching story.
While there were aspects of the book that left me hoping for more, on the whole it was very enjoyable. I hope that the sequels are as entertaining.