Episodic & somewhat predictable. Touched a bit by the picaresque and the revenge tragedy, but ultimately distinguishable from both. Kinda annoying that everyone in the setting self-consciously re-affirms that "these are the Years of Blood." Seems like that's a designation that would come up only in historical writings long after the events have occurred.
Highly readable prose, and nice to have maps (though they're limited to the locales of the relevant city-states where the narrative unfolds). I particularly enjoyed the poisoner's narrations.
Abercrombie continues to be self-derogating, having characters proclaim about the narrative that "you couldn't make it up" (493), "I've no character at all...I'm cut out of paper" (563), "everything was overdone like a scene from a lurid fantasy novel" (id.), "like bad actors in some cheap morality play" (564), and--my favorite--at the ending, a disappointed character asks, "So that's how it ends, is it? That's the ending?" (632). The poisoner, whose narrations I enjoy so much, is likewise described as someone who "spoke like a bad writer" (583). We're told "it's a fantasy, one can do as one pleases" (305). A character is accused of being "an author of cheap fantasies" (509). The most meditative self-derogation occurs upon some characters' discovery of the actions of our "poisoner-poet," "murder and metaphor combined" (572).
Good to see some characters from prior volumes return here--Cosca, Vitari, & Shivers most importantly. The novel develops the setting further and advances its timeline. Enjoyable very much in these respects. Setting development also proceeds through numerous quotations of various literary writers from within the setting (though chapter epigraphs are taken, with mixed effect, from our own literatures).
Our introspective barbarian of past volumes is replaced by a different sort, perhaps whose powers of reflection are somewhat limited, if not completely vacant:
"Fucking science, even worse'n magic" (410).
"Fucking banking, even worse'n science" (411).
"Fucking magic, even worse'n banking" (412).
Recommended for bloated balloons of braggadocio, ringmasters for the circus of murder, and juries of scum.