Top critical review
Writing's good, but much too graphic and dark for my taste
Reviewed in the United States on April 11, 2017
This book was not for me. Nothing wrong with the writing skill - the author has a gift for describing settings beautifully - but if you're not down for explicit sex and violence, you may want to steer clear. The violence wasn't too much of a problem for me, and the various action scenes are well-described, but the sex was...not to my taste. And there's a lot of it (from both gay and straight couples). I wouldn't mind it much if there was any affection displayed between those engaged in it, but for the most part it felt to me like sex just for sex's sake. About the healthiest relationship on display was between a 16-year-old girl and her twice-her-age tribal chief, as they at least seemed to like each other.
As for the rest of the book, it follows three main characters, and alternates between their viewpoints. I quite liked Arceth, the last of an apparently scientifically advanced race and possibly the most rational person on her planet, but the other two, not so much. The aforementioned tribal chief is very crass (except for the nagging influence of culture from his old friends, which at least gave him promise), which was annoying, but the main character's development was most disappointing. I hated his final decisions so much that it made it hard for me to finish the book - true, his enemies were alien and monstrous, but I wasn't convinced that negotiation and persuasion would have been impossible. I looked ahead in the series to see if he turns out to become a bona fide villain, which would have at least explained his behavior here, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
Some good things: I did like how the main three characters felt connected despite not interacting until the very end, as they are always in each others' thoughts. The world is well-realized, though it's nowhere I'd ever want to visit. Being LGBT myself, I like my fantasy books to at least be something of an escape, but this was as bad as some of the worst places in the world are now. Realistic, perhaps, in its way, but as it didn't really have much to say about the persecution of gay people allegorically (other than that it's horrific), I didn't see the point of designing the world that way. At the end, the main character is asked why he bothers to defend the people of his world. Good question, I thought, but his answer was unsatisfying.