I finally finished this book last night after about two weeks of on/off reading, and I have to say that I'm mostly impressed with it. As far as debuts go, it's very strong.
Basically, it's a story of conquest, rebellion and danger, with a little bit of politics thrown in for good measure. Generally these sort of books don't interest me, and I will admit that if I hadn't been given a copy of this book, I likely wouldn't have picked it up. The world is filled with races that hark back to classic ones we know and love. The Beetle-kinden are highly reminiscent of Dwarves, the Spider-kinden make me think of Dark Elves or Drow, and the Mantis-, Moth- & Dragonfly-kindens seem to each have parts of both High and Wood Elves, with the Fly-kinden being similar to Faeries and Halflings.
It's a world that seems to be a mixture of different influences, too. There's a Steampunk influence that rears its head every so often, along with bits and pieces Tchaikovsky has taken from other settings. It does come together fairly well, but like Col Buchanan's Farlander from earlier in 2010, the setting felt inconsistent and confusing at times to me.
I did have some gripes, though. There's a romance that becomes apparent towards the end of the book, but it's one that I felt was shoehorned in and completely out of place. In my hands I held a book that - for over 500 pages - had been very mature and had mentioned sex less than a handful of times, yet I was greeted with a very vague sex scene (No real details were given as to what happened) that was completely out of place and seemed to be at odds with the rest of the book and even the characters involved.
Overall, it was a good read and a great debut, but it was so easily tarnished for me by the inclusion of a certain romance and scene, and made me doubt whether I wanted to continue. However, I shall and we'll see what happens...