In my humble opinion, this is the best book ever written by David and Leigh Eddings.
Unlike many fantasy books, this book is written by two people (a fact diclosed to the public in later works). By combining both a male and female style, I feel that the authors have managed to create an epic which is hard to beat.
Sparhawk (the Hero) is by far "the best realised hero in current fantasy" as was said by the Daily Telegraph. Unlike many fantasy novels, Eddings has gone away from the idea of a hero who comes from obscurity.
Sparhawk is the Queen's Champion at the beginning of the saga. What happens to him after this I will leave for all to discover.
The characters are portrayed with a greater realism, and what makes this the best Eddings book by far is that we see the honesty in the authors' style. Sephrenia is shown to have racist tendancies, and even faithful "old friends" are shown up as traitors and villans.
The Bhelliom is discovered to have an awareness, something which could never have been predicted in the first trilogy (The Elenium).
If for no other reason, this book is worth reading for the whole plot behind the Tamul Emperor, and the way in which Sarabian wrests control back from the government. I spent page after page with my emotions in a cocktail shaker... one moment I was laughing out loud, the next I was silent and following the plot intensly.
I have now read this book well over a hundred times (I have a first edition which is missing many pages and has had to be replaced TWICE) and still find myself reaching for it when I have nothing new to read.
I am sorry to new readers if this review seems a little vague. I would not want to spoil the plot for anyone.
All I can say is if you have not yet read any Eddings, please start with the Elenium. Many parts of the plot rely on the reader being familiar with the characters and their idiosyncrasies - it will be worth the wait, I promise.