Ambitious in length, perhaps to the detriment of the story, because at times it felt as if Liu was filling in spaces with superfluous scenes. For me it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi I expect from high fantasy, and it felt disjointed or disconnected at times.
The characters main purpose seemed to be to propel the story forwards, as opposed to them being so developed that the reader is interested in what happens to them next. A bit like props.
I was also surprised by the lack of female characters and the few that did appear were delegated to the role of concubine, mother, mistress and wife. Then again I suspect this is also the case when retelling old Chinese tales of historical triumphs and defeats. Only the leaders and warriors tend to make a mark and be worthy of mention. A cultural aspect rather than a specific plot deficit.
Kuni and Mata are really two sides of the same coin. The only difference between them is one is honest about wanting complete power and the other tries to kid himself into thinking he doesn’t.
Whilst I can’t fault the beautiful descriptions and the complicated layering of social etiquette and standing, there is something missing between those elements other than just lack of character development, and it being a great read.