The second book in the Ashraf Bey series is as good as the first. It’s different: the relationships between the various characters have changed following the events of the first book, and the focus of the narrative is less on Ashraf himself, and more on Hamzah Effendi. Just as in the first book, the story spends a lot of time in flashbacks, bringing the history of its characters to light. We already knew that none of the protagonists were innocents, but in places Effendi is surprisingly brutal and violent. The action kicks into high gear for the last hundred pages, with a neat twist to bring plot home. The final showdown is a bit too easy, and most of the political sub-plots are unnecessary, but it’s a damn fine book nevertheless.