I enjoyed this book, though it is calmer and more thoughtful than previous volumes in the sequence. I liked the explanations of Assassin Guild politics provided by Tabini and Algini - they have clarified much that had been left hanging in previous books. The Guild machinations are fascinating. The descriptions of objects such as porcelains (particularly the two southern vases) and textiles, and clothing are as usual wonderful and add much colour and interest to the book. It is good to see more of Tabini, and to get to know him better as a character. It's also great to see him start to establish a rapport with his son - and to hear from Ilisidi how Tabini himself was just as precocious as a child, and that he spent time with her at Malguri. And it's marvellous that Bindanda and Narani (that wonderful old man!) have reappeared. One looks forward to more descriptions of sumptuous meals in future books...
Another thing I like is that there is much less repetition in this book than there was in the previous volumes, presumably because they were all meant to be stand-alone titles, which never quite worked.
There is much less action and tension here than in previous titles, and more of politics. Possibly we needed a calmer volume that didn't include pell-mell action, and that had the space to provide some detailed explanations about the politics behind the actions. I feel it provides a deeper insight into the Atevi as a species. I would perhaps have liked interesting characters such as Machigi, Geigi and Ilisidi to have met up earlier, rather than at the end of the book - but whenever they do appear they stand out. It would also have been good to see Tabini meet with Machigi, but hopefully this will happen in the next book. (I trust Machigi is not going to do the predictable thing and marry the troublesome female from the northern clan in the south, so we thus end up with another Daimiri in the story.)
It's good to see that Bren's annoying family has finally left. For someone who is most interested in the 'adult' part of the story, there is perhaps a little too much of the heir. I trust his coming sibling will not be given too much space in future books (one 'rascal' is enough), and that the descent of human rascals from the station will be in no way central to the next book (and in fact that it doesn't happen). Given that it is undesirable in general for Atevi and humans to mix closely for reasons provided in earlier books, it is surely illogical to for this to occur. (They would in any case hardly be able to cope with the change in environment within a short space of time.) On the whole, though, a few doses of Cajeiri are not too bad, serving to balance the plot, and the scene between his father and mother at the end of this book is really quite touching. I also liked the scene where he made his father laugh - one sees Tabini laugh all too infrequently.
Isn't it high time that the Kyo appeared? Will Machigi go to the space station?
At its core (i.e. Bren and the activities around him) the book is very interesting. For a book of nearly 400 pages, it seems surprisingly short - and like all the books in the sequence it improves the more you read it. I give it five stars and look forward to the next one. What I'm not looking forward to is the lengthy gap the publisher leaves between the publication of each title.