What's good: Butcher returns, picking up the tale of Tavi where he left him in the last book, a small-town boy in a big city, and right in the center of an ingeniously constructed political crisis (well, ingenious for a fantasy writer). Butcher shows a level of sophistication that most fantasy or sci-fi writers simply don't, sticking to reformulated space opera epic or tolkein-esque adventure with no substance. In a way, Butcher's writing reminds me of the Timothy Zahn Star Wars novels - clever and nuanced without being overbearing and cheesy (well for the most part). Tavi and his family find themselves in an impossible situation. The First Lord is under siege from Alera's enemies and falls into a coma at a time when concerns over his health are fomenting rebellion. In the countryside, a new menace, the vord, threaten to undo the feuding Alerans before they even become aware of the problem. There are layers to the problems that the main characters face, and it's not all melodrama. Tavi faces personal problems of isolation in the big city, betrayal, identity crisis and the myriad of other problems a normal teenage boy would face. The best part is, Butcher doesn't find some impossible solution to tie the world back together with no harm done. The characters "survive" the ordeal through compromise, not all of it pretty, and some of it quite heartbreaking. As usual, the concept and the writing are solid, and Butcher continues to deliver solid and direct dialogue that doesn't make you cringe (as happens 90% of the time with books of this genre). Definitely worth continuing.