Having been reading the fantasy genre for many years, I have become jaded with the stock formulaic swords and sorcery epics that seem to the norm these days. Thus, have bought the book on a whim, without any preconceptions, it was a delight to find a consistent universe, character driven, yet with a refreshing twist to it. The main protaganist is a lawyer, yet in this world, law is decided by the art of fencing - to the death for serious cases, to first blood for civil matters - divorce and so on. The background to this is that of the internal and external politics of the city-state in which it is set.
I cannot promise huge swashbuckling magical duels, yet magic is a part of this world, but in a subtle way, that leaves you wondering, rather than the mechanistic science of magic derived from role-playing spinoffs. (I must admit, they *are* however one of my weaknesses as a sub-genre!)
However, the plot is riveting - the main character is a fencer-at-law, and a semi-disgraced ex-soldier. Now retired from active practise, he teaches, and attracts a pupil with a hidden agenda. He is also called upon to lead the city militia. As a parallel plot, a new leader for the plain tribesmen arises, and, makes a trek to the city, to learn the ways of technology. This, he applies to the art of war, with ominous consequences...
This book was, in short, a very good read, and has had me scouring the net for details of the second book promised in the series. Oddly unhyped, partly due to the unsensational nature of the story, it stands head and shoulders above its current rivals, and is as engaging as early Brooks, or even, oddly, reminding me of Snow Crash, by Stephenson. Buy it and read it.