In many ways this is a better book than Half a King. Instead of a revenge story, we get a quest and adventure tale with the characters trying to level a political playing field that is tilting away from them. We get to see part of the larger world as well as quite a lot of character development better than any in the first book. This novel is another fantastic outing by Joe Abercrombie.
The book essentially has two halves. The first covers the mountain crossing and deals a lot with geography and mountaineering while the second deals with the consequences of the smuggling plot. There is a great deal with magic and how it is handled and regulated in this book. The main thing though is that the author makes certain to make complex, gray characters who do things for their own reasons. Perhaps too much so, but it works fairly well. Certainly a novel worth reading.