From my Amazon review, will expand more later:
I went into this book having only read Ms. Bear’s Hammered, a definitely different genre (but also a good read for cyberpunk fans). What I loved about the book, was it’s departure from normal fantasy fiction norms, while keeping the same sense of adventure. Instead of knights and castles and dragons, we have horse archers, hidden mountain fortresses of assassins, and rukhs. The characters were very well developed, and even the antagonists make you believe they are acting for reasons that make sense to them, not just twirling their mustaches and projecting evil for evil’s sake.
The thing I loved the most was the evident research done in creating the backstory and setting. Hints of a parallel world to ours, with echos of Mongols, Hashashins, Caliphates, China and more (I would love to know if the lizard people are Sarmatian based, it does seem so), all fleshed out. And the tiny details are what really hooked me. Hints as why nomads drink fermented mare milk, the discussion of wound heat, all of these made it seem like a truly real place if only magic existed. Based on what I read, I’ve purchased both of the sequels and hope the story continues to thrill me as much as the first book had.