By Bradley P Beaulieu This one falls into the category of 'Silk Road Fantasy' - essentially a middle/near-eastern flavor as opposed to medieval Europe. The setting is a refreshing change and having visited a few countries in the region myself, feels like an authentic secondary world. It has a strong mix of history and mythology and accurately portrays the way the medieval mind mixes the two. The protagonist is a young woman with an interesting and fleshed-out history, that is slowly revealed. Who woulda thunk men could write strong female leads? Though the last one I reviewed, CB Currie's The Martyr and the Prophet, also had a strong female character who looks set to do great things, I wasn't left thinking of her as the 'lead'. Beaulieu's Ceda is certainly the one in the driving seat. She's detailed, nuanced and believable. Beaulieu's society has a unique flavor too: twelve immortal kings rule their desert realms and there is plenty of George Martin style court intrigue. Ceda is thrust up through this world as her humble beginnings may not be humble and she finds she has a role to play in the doings of the great and good. The only weakness would be a lack of POV from other characters, as Ceda dominates the story (well, it's her story). For an expanded story line and world, I hope to see more of the others in future volumes. A few fantasy tropes soften the impact in some places but I won;t fault a writer for nodding to his market: even Martin has zombies and kings with 'dragon blood'. On the whole it was a highly enjoyable read and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a fresh take away from the well-trodden medieval fantasy path, in search of a sun-baked desert getaway. Four solid stars.