Modesitt's writing is like clockwork: predictable, dependable, unexciting. He creates boring, detailed fantasy worlds and peoples them with walking shadows. The “characters” aren’t even caricatures—that would require Modesitt to give them some sort of personality. The main character, Rhen, exists in this book only to lecture and be lectured about government, and to eat very detailed meals. I do not need to know what fictional wine each and every character has each and every meal, and yet Modesitt seems to think that sort of detail is far more important than, say, a plot.
Speaking of plots, there really isn’t one. I forced my way through this book, but at some point put it down and just couldn’t bear to pick it up again, even though I was only ~50 pages from the end. Because I just didn’t care about the thin veneer of intrigue that Modesitt periodically remembered to include, and I found the main character so incredibly despicable (not in an authorially intended way, alas) that I hoped the “mysterious assassin” killed him. This is a terrible book. I recommend it to no one.