This fantasy tale reads like a historical tale of England during the time of Henry VIII. Petty city-states with limited resources vie for position. Dictators who will smile as they stick a knife in their allies back. Mercenaries, thieves, and privateers doing the dirty work that cannot be done officially. A champion forced to assume the title of unwilling leader. His close circle of friends, not one of them particularly anxious to assume the power that has been thrust upon them. And of course an assassination attempt by an usurper.
Plenty of intrigues in this tale of floating cities in a world that has been covered by floodwater for many generations ... and for the first time has hope as the waters begin to recede. The system of magic is logical, and is expanded upon in an interesting way from Book 1 of the series. The magical duals continue, but take a back seat to the intrigues of kings ... and our champions dislike of being forced to fight his opponents behind-their-back instead of head-on like a true champion should. The research into what must be done to manage a world where newly emerged land must be tended and planted, but the flood waters are receding too slow to satisfy a desperate populace, is credible.
My only complaint was the secondary antagonist's motivation. I wasn't sure whether to simply dislike him, or love to dislike him. Simple dislike is when you say 'this is the bad guy' and then every time he slithers into the room, the audience hisses. But when you love to dislike a character, it's like JR Ewing in the original Dallas. He's a snake. But he's so darned fascinating because a lot of the time he makes the most sense. I didn't 'love to hate' the secondary antagonist, and the primary antagonist was always so shadowy that I didn't get a chance to hate him.
In the end, the REAL antagonist was the snails pace at which the waters were receding and how difficult it was for the hero to keep things together in light of human nature. Therefore, I'm giving this book four stars. And looking for the next installment in this series.