*Image and book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.
Neythan has been trained since he was orphaned in childhood in the art of the Shedaím, the Brotherhood of assassins. When he and the rest of his sharím (class) take their vows and accept their first decrees his life seems set. Unfortunately he gets framed for the murder of one of his fellow Shedaím and must now hunt the actual killer to clear his name and get answers. But Neythan is not the only one who has troubles in life. Yasmin, wife of the Steward of Dumea, seeks answers to her brother's death. Sidon, the new (and very young) king, is to be married in days to a woman he's never met while trying to figure out why his mother and servants keep whispering to each other. These stories intertwine and set the groundwork for the world.
This was a wonderful introduction to a new world. There was a fair amount of exposition, but it was very well balanced with action, dialogue, and story progression. The use of multiple character perspectives was an excellent way to get a full world view. From the Sharíf at the very top to Neythan hanging out with the very bottom, we get a real sense for the rules and structure of this world. Yongo does a wonderful job with the world building and keeping everything consistent. I even looked up various city names to see where in the ancient world the setting was at. It was a lot of fun.
Despite this book's main character being an assassin, I greatly appreciated Yongo's restraint at descriptions of violence. Yes, there is fighting, wounding and killing, but they are not graphically depicted. Rather the focus is on the technique, the action, the healing. The only time things got close to graphic were where it was necessary for the story.
The fantastical elements of the book were rather sparse, but very well placed. In a world that has shut down and killed off all of its magi, it makes sense that there wouldn't be much. So when these elements do show up, it makes them a lot more poignant. The use of blood trees in the Shedaím that reflect the growth of each brother was my favorite. The Watcher's interactions being limited with Neythan establish the rules that even the gods must abide by. These remind you that, underneath this ancient, down-to-earth setting, there is a layer of magic just waiting to be unleashed.
I am eager to read more books set in this world. By the time I was about two-thirds done I was thinking "there better be a sequel. I want a sequel!" There is so much going on in this world and so much more to learn and explore. I happily give 4.5 hoots and look forward to Yongo's next book!