This book is good in so many ways, but I guess what strikes me the most is the characters. They are vivid, interesting and believable. Wulf Rome, the king, is probably my favorite, the way he approaches his life with bluff good humor. He seems like the kind of leader you'd be willing to follow into battle anywhere (if going into battle was your thing!) and his interactions with Opus, his chief steward, are really entertaining, as Opus tries to get Rome to treat being a king with the dignity he thinks the position deserves, while Rome is still a simple soldier who'd rather get drunk with his men than sit around playing the game of diplomacy.
I also really enjoyed Quyloc, Rome's second-in-command and oldest friend. They grew up on the streets together, rose through the ranks together, and are enjoying the fruits of the kingdom together - or at least they should be. Because Quyloc can't shake the envy that slowly poisons him against his old friend. The scene from their childhood, when they are orphans living on the streets and Rome kills the leper who is victimizing the street children, and only Quyloc follows him into the creep's lair - it gave me chills.
The other main character, Netra, the young Tender of Xochitl, is good, but not my favorite. She is kind of idealistic for me, but I suppose that is only her youth. She is kind of preachy in her beliefs and hard on the other women in her Order, but I'm guessing the author is setting her up for some serious disillusionment in later books and she has to be this way. She is an interesting character, just not as good as Rome or Quyloc.
I also enjoyed the mysterious Lowellin, trying to figure out if he really is who he says he is - the legendary Protector from the Tenders' past - or something else. It seems clear he has more of an agenda in this war than he lets on.
The next thing I loved about this book is the pacing. I hate reading hundreds of pages where nothing happens - the characters do a little laundry, prepare a nice lunch and tell us all about it. Ugh. But this books moves right along. Knight takes the time to flesh out his characters, but he doesn't bore us while he does so. The story starts, and it goes.
All in all, I strongly recommend this book. It is one of the better fantasies I have read in a while and I look forward to the next one.