Here we meet Reuben Hilfred who will appear later in Riyria Revelations. In this book he is still a young boy getting ready to become a castle guard. His POV takes up practically half of the book; it becomes really interesting at about one third in the book and stays that way until the end. The second half of the book is unsurprisingly about Hadrian, Royce and Albert Winslow. The duo's meeting with the latter was described in the short story [b:The Viscount and the Witch|12746970|The Viscount and the Witch (Riyria Chronicles, #1.5)|Michael J. Sullivan|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1317247388s/12746970.jpg|17886928] which is incorporated in the book as chapter 2.
I like this book more than the first book of the series, [b:The Crown Tower|16043804|The Crown Tower (The Riyria Chronicles #1)|Michael J. Sullivan|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1375570227s/16043804.jpg|21821161] - it took a while for the latter to become interesting; at the same time this book jumps straight into the action practically right away. It also shows pissed off Royce before he started to show traces of humanity due to Hadrian's influence (hint: do not get him into this state). One more thing to mention: if you are a reader who does not overlook slightest details, the end of the book contains some spoilers for the first book of the original series [b:The Crown Conspiracy|4345290|The Crown Conspiracy (The Riyria Revelations, #1)|Michael J. Sullivan|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1313141264s/4345290.jpg|21574260]. For this reason I recommend reading the series in publication order: Riyria Revelations followed by Riyria Chronicles.
At times I thought the book is worth 5 star rating, but something prevented me from giving it - I cannot even tell what exactly. It is still a very good book which fully deserves 4 stars which I give to it without any hesitation.