As fantasy stories go, I found it thoroughly-enjoyable. Staveley has created a fascinating world with an engaging mythology.
The story tracks the children of the Emperor of Annur:
- Kaden, the heir being raised by the stern Shin monks.
- Valyn, the only child without the unique "blazing eyes", being trained to be one of the Kettral, a group of super-soldiers who go on missions on giant birds.
- Adare, the eldest and the only daughter, unable to take the throne but also the only one at the capitol when her father is murdered.
It's solid enough fare. I kind of wish Staveley had focused on one character more instead of all three, but it did help break the book up a bit to jump off to the others.
I really only have two complaints, and they're more personal issues than anything else:
- His protagonists are anything but super-capable. That's fine, really. It's good to have flawed protagonists, but I think he bent a little bit backwards in making everyone else better than they are. Their victories are few, far between, and very abrupt. It would have been nice to give the characters a little more badassery.
- There's an excess of sociopaths in the story. Reads a little bit like a Joe Ambercrombie book in that sense, though Abercrombie's characters are less-sociopaths and more just luckless.