Philippa Ballantine is an amazing writer. I was hooked from the first chapter, despite the fact that I knew nothing about what was going on. She managed to create three main characters whom I actually love, which is almost unheard-of. Sorcha, Merrick, and Raed are all very realistic, mostly sympathetic characters who are as flawed as Swiss cheese but still manage to be good people. Ballantine handled them expertly; she always stayed within the lines of their character, but managed to pull off a few stunts that surprised me. I was very, very impressed.
The action in this book was very clear and crisp, and there was plenty of it. I liked that the plot wasn't secondary to the character development, or vice versa--they worked together perfectly, and the only thing missing was some more worldbuilding . . . but hey, I'm looking forward to that in the next book, so I don't mind at all.
The only reason why I can't give this book five stars is the romance. Normally, a romance like the one in this book--Sorcha is married to another man but ends up with Raed--would immediately knock it down to two stars for me, no matter how good the rest of the book was. I hate cheaters, and stumbling across them as a major plot-point in a book sickens me . . . but this book was so good except for that, that I'll hand it a grudging four stars.
I definitely recommend this book if you enjoy dark fantasy with just a touch of steampunk. I'm looking forward to the next one.