** spoiler alert ** 3.5*
I enjoyed this story somewhat more than Rotten Magic and it added in background around the origin of the blackguards and artificers guild. Having the single, rather than dual POV made it a stronger story for me and the book worked better for it, despite it being more political than action orientated. I can see the ending splitting reader opinion as a cliffhanger and I didn't actually mind it as it was a natural termination point.
It was an entertaining opening and solid ending but the pacing in the middle could do with a tweak. For a short novel it took a while to get to the actual meal and trigger events into motion. There were a couple of social concepts and Kelsa's behaviour in a few places that I wasn't entirely convinced by that would have benefitted from a greater depth, rather than the slow tension towards the end.
I'm left curious to see how events develop and unravel to what I found in Rotten Magic, aided by Kelsa being a more solid character and a clever use of illusion. A neat concept, which for me elevated this novel above Rotten Magic.