This book was like watching someone setting up a chess board very, very slowly and methodically. And for most of its length, that's what it was, getting all the characters where they needed to be so that their journey could begin. It wasn't until late in the narrative, when all of the pieces were in place, when the opening moves finally happened, that it truly became an exciting read. The stakes weren't known early enough to really drive the book forward. A true sense of the mysteries of this universe didn't emerge until the final third; pretty late to get the hooks in. The characters were all well-drawn and interesting. However, the young aristocrat/swordsman was a bit overdone. I didn't need to be reminded that he was an arrogant, insufferable, naive, and conceited little shit in every single chapter in which he appears (and in many in which he did not). It just made it so much more obvious that this character will be learning the hard way in the next couple of books and will, by the end, have transformed into a truly heroic and sympathetic character. I could be wrong. Perhaps this wasn't a woefully unbalanced approach to character growth and transformation, as I haven't read the next two books in the series. I'd be more than happy to eat crow if this guy gets an arrow through the throat in the first chapter of book two.
Will I read book two? Yes, I will. This really wasn't as bad all of the above seems to indicate. Once the story got going, it really was gripping. And if book two picks up immediately where one left off, and the action and the mysteries continue to be doled out at the rate they were in the final third of this book, then book two should be fucking great.