First off let me say that this is not traditional "historical fiction", in that, the story supposedly takes place 1400 years AFTER the apocalypse that destroys our modern world. The people have rebuilt somewhat, but all of the "modern" technology and conveniences have been lost- so the story is set in a medieval-type culture complete with kings, dukes, counts and barons. Unlike our historical medieval period, this society does not have a hateful religion dictating its morals and beliefs, thus, homosexuality is accepted. However, they don't have traditional gay marriage; nobles are still expected to produce heirs to carry on the name- especially the first-born sons. It was nice to finally read a book that wasn't full of men hiding their sexuality or having to read about characters forced to bed women.
With that being said, this book is an extremely psychologically painful book to read- it was the first book I've ever read where I felt sick through most of it. It had nothing to do with the 'content' of the storyline, but had to do with the emotional and psychological pain between Anaxantis and Ehandar. I was drawn to Anaxantis in the beginning, but then found myself more on Ehandar's side... yet, towards the end when Anaxantis explained everything to his friend Hermarchidas and you saw the events through Anaxantis' eyes- only then do you realize the full impact it had upon him. When the event occurred early in the story, it was see from above, and not through the eyes of either- yet hearing the event from Anaxantis, you realize how much it truly did scar him. However, I still didn't lose my feelings for Ehandar, as he truly wanted to do everything he possibly could to make it up to Anaxantis.
Their story made the book, even though the author felt a need to introduce character after character after character, making it difficult to keep up with who is who and why you should even care. I am not a fan of this type of writing style, I much prefer first-person narratives, so this story was difficult to follow at times and I found myself skipping page after page until I returned to some of the MAIN characters- such as Anaxantis, Ehandar, their father and Anaxantis' mother- most other characters just didn't interest me in the least and I didn't feel that anything that was involved with the extra characters would be that important; as it turned out, I was right. I managed to skip about 1/3 of the book and still was able to keep up with the story and never felt I had missed anything.
So all in all, the story was worth the read. I love stories with complex and complicated characters, and this, by far, has the cast of most screwed up characters I've ever read. ;-) I also have to add that, after reading all four books in the series, the writing and story improves a LOT over time! The fourth book, "Invisible Hands Pt 1", is my favorite so far. We also get to hear less of Randamor the Recluse's commentary as the books progress- which is a good thing IMO.
I also felt I should state that the majority of characters are young men between the ages of 15-20, so if the idea of sex or rape involving teenage boys is a problem for you, then you probably will not like this series.