I can say without hesitation that I enjoyed this book more so than the first. Maybe this is because Sprunk took more time to detail the world or because my two favorite characters (Josey and Kit) proved themselves more than Caim's match in dealing with the unknown.
Our Merry Band of Miscreants have gone in different ways after Caim's decision to head North (to help his people) and Josey became Empress of Nimea. I was relieved that Sprunk didn't spend too much time on Josey becoming acclimated to being Empress; having been raised in a noble house she fell into the role of Empress easily enough (as far as manners and customs). Caim for his part didn't spend a lot of time moping that he had to leave Josey despite their feelings (and the beginnings of a relationship). At odd moments he will regret not being with her and accepting the easier road (as her husband), but he's doing what he knows to be right and that sustains him.mostly. By contrast Josey spent more time silently cursing Caim for leaving her, but she had a slightly better reason to do so.
Caim's family history is deeply discomforting. It would be better to say that the culture of his people makes it hard to be comfortable around them. Kit relays news to him that could be construed as good news, but straight on the heels of that revelation she reports about a family member that puts everyone else's Crazy Aunt Judy to shame. Sprunk spends time going from character to character to round out the worldview--we follow Caim, Sybelle, Josey, Kit and a small host of minor characters when they're viewpoint adds something different to the proceedings. This was frustrating at times because not everyone is given equal time--Caim will sometimes have entire chapters to himself while Josey is given only a small portion of one, or Sybelle will repeatedly show within a few chapters.
I think what pleased me the most was in between Caim and his new Merry Band of Miscreants fighting their way further North to purge the menace threatening everyone, we had the time with Josey and the Court machinations. Reading about Josey handling the precarious balance of power and unrest in Nimea, while being hunted by a creature of murderous intent, was more entertaining than the constant battles Caim found himself in. Sprunk definitely upped the body count for this book.
The various plot threads all end with the same purpose in mind--to get North and resolve things one way or another. I look forward to a reunion between Josey and Caim, as well as the nature of Kit and Caim's past being fully revealed. There's a showdown a-brewing and I'm rubbing my hands in glee for it.
There are some things a son of the Shadow cannot ignore, and some fights from which he can't run. In this battle, all of Caim's strength and skill won't be enough. For none can resist the Shadow's Lure . . .