The story is told in turns by almost a half dozen narrators and it takes a while to get your feet in all the plot. And since most of the characters are concealing their motives, it takes a lot of mental effort to work out why the characters behave the way they do--especially that mysterious mercenary, Mieran. In quick succession, we learn that about twenty years before the book opens, those photophobic warriors, the Norlanders, invaded the Shadar in search of a rare metal that can be used to create amazing swords. They enslave the populace and their ruthless practices have lead the Shadari to organize a rebellion.
But instead of being content with a story of a people reclaiming their freedom, Manieri includes two subplots involving star-crossed lovers and a third subplot involving a power mad Norlander with access to too many weapons.
I have to be honest. In spite of all the creative effort that went into this book, it's a muddle, organization-wise. It is really hard to get your feet. I didn't feel like I had a grip on it until after page 100. And by the end, I still had my doubts about whether I really understood what the author was up to in this book. As the start of a series, I knew that the ending would be a bit unsatisfying, because it needed to set things up for the next book.