This a remarkable bit of world builsing with a unique magic system. In this world, magic is preformed by poets who try to capture useful ideas and force them into a human form. That idea-in-a-human-form becomes an andat, a being capable of preforming specific magic. For example, the main andat in this story is called Seedless because he can cause the seeds to fall out of the cotton. This has lead to the city of Saraykeht becoming a centre for the cotton trade. But Seedless is also capable of making a pregnant woman spontaneously abort. And this is where his power is. No one would dare attack the city for fear that Seedless would be used on their women and crops back home.
Into this world is thrust Itani, a labourer who is not all he seems to be, and his lover Liat as they try to navigate through the murky politics of the trading houses and the Khadim. Layered on top of that is the older, wiser and more practicle Amat who must flee for her life when she uncovers a plot to bring down the city-states.
This is a very good first novel, but as I read it, I found that I wanted to spend the most time with Amat. She alone is not a trope that we have visited in fantasy a hundred times. Still, the book moves at a good pace and is an entertaining read.