Ken Liu has acquired a reputation in just a few years as a fine writer of short fiction and as a translator, including two novels by Cixin Liu of China. His first novel, The Grace of Kings, told a story of political intrigue in an imagined archipelago, Dara, where a poor child rose to eventually reign as Emperor. There was little overt magic or supernatural agency in the tale so I found that the book could almost be read as an alternate-world science fiction as well as a fantasy.
The second book holds to the high standards Mr. Liu set in the first: excellent and at times lyrical prose, deep characterization which allowed the reader to know the returning characters better, and a sophisticated plot. Many of the characters have to deal with the consequences of hard decisions made in the earlier book. Mr. Liu also introduces a major threat to the peace and prosperity of the Empire, which taxes the wit and ingenuity of the lead characters and creates great tension in the plot.