For starters, "Warriorwards" is gritty. Eschewing the usual conventions of clean and colorful fantasy, Dafydd ab Hugh takes us to a side of human experience rarely seen in fiction. We see a tournament consisting not of knights in shining armor, but rather of scared novices with no armor at all, and only crude weapons. Similarly, ab Hugh shares no illusions about living conditions back in the day. In "Warriorwards", travel is tiring and dangerous, cities are dirty and crime-ridden, people are sickly and louse-ridden. The general state of decay applies to morals as well. The heroine Jiana is not above backstabbing and cheating when she knows she can't win by fair means. Anyone who likes this book should try the novels of Hugh Cook and Neal Barrett, Jr.
The other good point about "Warriorwards" is that it focuses on inner conflict, not physical conflict. There's enough fighting, not too much, but the main pull of the plot comes from watching the slave girl Radience trying to accept the idea of freedom. Without the need for enormous actions scenes and a gigantic grand finale, ab Hugh has more opportunity to take us inside the heads of the characters.
There are, however, many aspects of this book not to like. Ab Hugh felt the need to throw in every conceivable postmodernist narrative trick: dreams, hallucinations, stream-of-consciousness, flashbacks, flashbacks-within-flashbacks, split personalities, and more. Much of the book is a chore to read because page after page goes by without anything clear to hang on to. The constant, murky references to Jiana's past don't add anything to the story, and the entire business with her sex life grows more distrubing as the book goes along.
Because this is, I regret to inform you, one of those novels where the author thinks that more sex equals more sales to 13-year-old teenage boys. Consequently we get lots of beating, whipping, masturbating, groping, fondling, spying on naked women, child abuse, lesbianism, and much more, all leading up to a wonderfully detailed necrophilia scene. Did we really, truly need to see Jiana copulating with the dead body of an disgustingly obese priest? I would say no. Apparently some people think otherwise.
(I can't resist mentioning that ab Hugh has abandoned his literary career to take up the life of a conservative blogger, parroting whatever nonsense Karl Rove comes up with on any given day. Far be it from me to comment on his political leanings, but it does bring up an interesting question: does his audience know that he used to write BDSM, necrophilia, and lesbian erotica? If the Republicans are willing to welcome pornographers like ab Hugh, maybe they're finally grasping the concept of freedom and diversity.)