A human empire controls various lands, save for Hyntaland where the elves attempt to keep the Shadow Monarch contained.Elves are in touch with nature types, save for a few, blackened ears marked by Her Shadow: these formed the Iron Elves, a regiment in the Imperial Army (if this sounds exciting to you, keep reading, if you are rolling your eyes already, you can stop).
As the book opens, the Monarch gains new power, a Red Star falls and augers good or ill, and the Iron Elves--disbanded after their leader K. killed a Viceroy who was abusing people--are to be re-formed to aid the Prince in his search for the Star. K. doesn't get his elves back, though, but a group of low-lifes, newbies, and misfits.
The colonial aspect of the Empire and a dozen other details help create a complex, believable world. The prose is servicable and I liked this enough to want to read the next.