Funny to think that a year ago I'd never heard of Juliet McKenna; but we met and got on well at P-Con last September, and as a result I've been buying, reading and enjoying her books. I don't read a lot of fantasy as a rule but have a loyalty to certain authors, and I can continue my path through Juliet's novels while waiting for the next George R.R. Martin volume to come out.
This is a bit different from its three predecessors in the Einarinn series, with battles on the high seas against strangely magical opponents replaced by a political drama, set in the capital city and watching the machinations of the great houses against each other. One of McKenna's successes is that her world possesses a certain depth; every character has an almost tangible hinterland of family and friends. The Empire she portrays is a breathing, developing and somewhat fragile polity. (She's less convincing on the languages but nobody except Tolkien has ever done well on that score.) The book reminded me a bit of Feist's Rise of a Merchant Prince (one of only two by him that I've read) but is much better - characters less wooden and generally more sympathetic. You wouldn't want to start reading McKenna with The Warrior's Bond but it's certainly enough to get me to buy the fifth and final one in the series.