This is undoubtly the darkest and least "heroic" book in Hugh Cook's series: "Chronicles of an Age of Darkness", but it is a great read nonetheless. If you've ever wondered just how tough life would actually be for a women in a "realistic" medieval/fantasy world, look no further. The book never softens its grimly realistic tone by making artifical concessions to political correctness (which, in most modern fantasies, dictates that women should never be at a disadvantage to men, despite the implausibility of this in a typical fantasy/medieval world). Instead, we are given a believable account of a (determined and resourceful, but not super-human) woman's struggle to survive independently (i.e. without a man) in a very male-dominated and repressive culture. If this sounds like rather depressing reading, then you're not far wrong - this book is certainly less uplifting than any other in the series. However, it still contains the usual Hugh Cook elements in abundance - drama, excellent characterisation, invention and humour. Overall, it's not quite as good as some others in the series, particularly books 4, 9 and 10, but it's still a great read, and for a fan of the series, the future development of the careers of Morgan Hearst and Watashi is worth the purchase price by itself. Conclusion: well worth buying, especially if you're a fan of the series.