I do love Lackey's Valdemar and picked up the earlier books eagerly. For me they're the equivalent of bookly comfort food. But I was disappointed in the earlier book centered on Alberich, Exile's Honor, and I'm afraid this sequel to it is no improvement. It's a common criticism of Lackey that she's very black and white in her worldview and characterizations. That doesn't suit in fleshing out the supposedly intimidating Alberich, who hails from Valdemar's traditional enemy, Karse. It also doesn't help with the major plot-line of the book, which deals with the young Queen Selenay's first marriage; Prince Karathanelan practically has stamped on his head: I'm a walking disaster--which makes Selenay rather stupid for ever finding him appealing, especially given how much is made of her struggle not to have herself married off by her council. If you're new to Lackey and her Valdemar, I'd try Arrows of the Queen or Magic's Pawn as an introduction instead--I can't recommend this one to anyone but hardcore fans.