This is a fantastic sequel that doesn't let down the audience from the first book. The story is even more interesting, as it switches from the past to the present. I don't want to give too many details here, but the new developments are really interesting.
As usual, once you start reading, you'll find it hard to stop. The pace quickens at a tolerable level, to a point near the end where you will find yourself reading late into the night, or forgetting that your lunch hour is only an hour.
The characters are as rooted in reality as always. McKenna does an excellent job writing from the point of view of a man as she did for Livak. This book is written from Ryshad's perspective, though Livak does appear in the book as well.
If you're tired of the fantasy genre, you'll probably still enjoy this book. The characters aren't necessarily heroic. Like most of us, they have reasons for what they do - even the villains. The best thing about McKenna's writing is the reality she infuses into the characters - the way they swear, have sex, joke, and love one another. It feels like real life, and it truly reflects the 'commoner' status that her characters have. Unlike most fantasy novels, these are not princes and princesses, or noble knights. She writes about a maidservant turned expert gambler, a craftsmen's son that signs up in the service of a lord.