Quite frankly as a stand alone this is the best fiction read yet. Given this plonks you into a time when you only know of one character you immediately fall in love with pretty much everything in this book. From the ridiculous mindset of the Lothari Empire held together by a stringent and cruel ultra-capitalistic code to the traditional Tiste Edur. The first mention of the Lothari legalities had me in stitches early on when we are taken to the docks.
Both groups have their significant flaws which Erikson delves deeply into given the social implications of the book a really nice edge that is layered magnificently via the character building. The characters were brilliantly done. Bug and Tehol were absolutely fantastically done. I really hope these two make another appearance later in the series. I don't want to give too much away in regards to these two but the opening scene with two had me in stitches and continued throughout. I enjoyed the development of our protagonist Trull. We meet his family (proud nobility mother, father and four sons) including Fear and Rhulad. Both are remarkable in their journey throughout the novel and are nicely weaved into the story. Others in the story like Tehol's two brothers are also quite interesting. The way the Azoth changes in the novel is quite interesting too. It leaves you wondering what implications this has on the rest of the book just like the new batch of demi-gods, the remnants of the Crimson Guard, and their leader Iron Bars' actions in the Divers' temple (well we know what happened there partially in book two but I am sure there is more to come).
Anyhow this truely is a fascinating read. Erikson delivers the perfect amount of detail and continues to slowly unwind his world in pleasurably style which is very easy to be enveloped into. 10 out of 10!