I read this because Iain M Banks picked it out as one of his favourite SF novels, and it is easy to see an influence on his writing, the brutal violence, the troubled hero; tegeus-Cromis ' sometime soldier and sophisticate of Viriconium, the Pastel City, who now dwelt alone in a tower by the sea and imagined himself a better poet than a swordsman', and the mechanical lammergeyer which is like a prototype drone.
But the pleasure is not in spotting influences but in the story itself. The basic premises, a primitive society living in the ruins of an older more superior one, the soldier called from retirement to serve his queen are familiar ones. But Harrison tells the story so well and originally that you don't care. Full of strong characters and told in Harrisons wonderful lean prose this is a brilliant novel....
Mr. Harrison will have you visualizing his landscapes and characters as few other authors could ever hope to do. These are real people in unreal settings, and that makes for the greatest of storytelling.
This is a tale of a far future land where technology has mostly been forgotten and rusted away. A power struggle between two queens has erupted in the post-Arthurian city of Viriconium and a handful of loyal old knights gather together to protect the young queen and restore her to the throne. Some of my favorite characters in fiction live in this book. I consider it an absolutely must read for sci-fi and fantasy fans alike.