Every thread of the story is written with pace and/or tension, and there are plenty of surprising twists and turns. A little more is revealed about Tavi’s father and we see Raucus, father of Max and Crassus, for the first time.
One particularly interesting feature of the book (and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the series) is the notion of power being more of a burden than a blessing. Given Mr. Butcher’s fondness for Romanesque references (legions, the Senate etc) I wonder whether he was thinking of the 3rd century, when many army leaders were proclaimed emperor (against their wishes and without their consent) by their army and had to choose to either get killed at once or fight for a prize they never wanted in the first place. Gaius, First Lord of Alera, has a similarly unhappy position, as his heir is far away and unaware of what’s happening to Alera, and numerous lords seek to usurp his throne.
We learn more about the Canim, who are always interesting to read about, and their own country, as well as being introduced to some more of Varg’s enemies. The numerous plot twists throughout leave not a moment to be bored or allow oneself to become relaxed, and one or two of the surprises are especially cunning.
I raced through the book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. If I hadn’t already done my top 10 reads of the year this would probably make it (I might add it to next year’s list).