My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m conflicted about rating this book. One one side, the writing is fluid and the worldbuilding is spectacular: the middle-eastern/Islamic cultures are well rounded and believable, and there is no dumbing down for the Western reader (if you don’t know what a dhoti or a burnous is, get ready to google a lot in the first few chapters; also, a bel dame is not a French pretty woman); and the planet itself is a carefully crafted scenario, with its mostly desertic setting, the harsh suns, and the incredible (if sometimes icky) bug-based technology and ‘magic’. The characters too are interesting, and most of them, even the side ones, manage to have a backstory or some interesting quirk that makes them memorable.
On the other side, the plot feels at times overly complicated (particularly the government-based conspiracies) and other times overly simple or clichéd: the characters are repeatedly caught by the bad guys, who are always one step ahead, then they more-or-less manage to escape or be rescued, only to start the cycle again; after the third or fourth time, I started wondering how these guys managed to stay alive for the previous 8 years. The main characters, also, are all so broken or pessimistic that it’s often hard to find them very likeable, particularly when it comes to (view spoiler).
Summing up: if stories about broken characters make you want to bash them in the head with a brick, try at least to read the first half of the book for its wonderful setting.