Cons: no book one synopsis/reminders
A year as Emperor hasn't brought Sarmin or his empire peace. His army, under General Arigu at the command of the previous emperor, has attacked Fryth. In an attept to mitigate the army's evils, Sarmin invites a Fryth envoy to discuss peace between their nations.
Cuious about the gifts of concubines he has received, Sarmin sends the untouchable Grada to follow the slave caravans that train the women.
Meanwhile, Sarmin's mother is worried that his new child will force the death of her own newborn son and a kitchen slave hears more than she ought while avoiding a fellow slave who likes to beat her. And Mesema finds Sarmin turning away from her as a dangerous emptiness spreads from Beyon's tomb.
If you haven't read the first book, The Emperor's Knife, you'll definitely need to before picking this book up. And if you haven't read the first book recently, you'll want to reread or skim it as this book has no recap for those with poor memories.
The writing is tight with several interconnected plots running through the book, showing various viewpoints. The characters are all complex, with some unrepentant scoundrels as well as serious growth by Sarmin and his mother.
As with the first book I highly recommend this series. And the ending really has me wishing the third book were already out.