This is a must read epic filled with intrigue, mystery, and violence. It reads partially like historical fiction similar to Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth", part memoir of an embedded war journalist, thought it's fantasy. This is not a genera I am inclined to read, but might be now. The dialogue feels true and is peppered with humor. Despite being fiction this is quite reflective of real life with geo-political undertones, religious leader corruption, and a self-indulgent baron, while the main characters play out their roles to the ends of more grand plans. Jeff Salyards creates oddly endearing characters. Braylar Killcoin, a brutal, stoic captain, and anti-hero who despite being distant is charismatic in the way of someone the reader wants to please. Braylar is direct and demanding, yet he feels like someone you would trust if he was your friend or at least your boss. The narrater, Arkamondos, brings a timid sensibility to the story in only the way a nerdy scholar can. Arkamondos is the emotion while Braylar is the action. I hope to see this odd couples' interaction in future books. And there must be since the ending, though resolute, sort of, left an opening for more adventure and excitement. I wish the book didn't end and I am anxious to read more.