Set against a plethora of various timelines and settings, Bakunin’s marvelously constructed blend of fantasy and hard SF is a vivid examination of tyranny, resistance, liberation, and resilience of human spirit. While the kingdoms rose and fell, the Stronghold stood intact, witnessing it all. It withstood all the bloodshed, the war, the tyranny, waiting patiently for the dawn of a new beginning. But will that dawn arrive? It’s rare to see such an ambitious plot with an equally enormous, incredible horde of settings and characters. The story is packed with an outrageous amount of information, and despite the plot’s multiple winding timelines, Bakunin handles various disparate plot threads and his large cast of characters with aplomb. He creates a richly immersive backdrop of familial, fantastical, and religious affiliations and divisions, against which he builds a series of powerful conflicts, political and personal ambitions, discerning schemes, and devastating betrayals. The political and individual intrigue is in plenty, the characters, be it major or minor, are layered and compelling, and there’s a perfect balance between SF action and dark fantasy. Dense and powerful, the book will appeal to sophisticated readers of deeply intricate literary fantasy. A standout.