Most of the time when I am praising books, I say "I couldn't put it down!" I did put this book down often, and read it very slowly, especially at the beginning: it is so dense with sensory detail and cultural hints about its fantasy realms that it's like every scene unfolds in slow motion. But this makes sense for the narrator, who travels the island pepper farm of his childhood to a decadent empire across the sea, and immerses himself completely in the experiences of being in the big city. I took little sips of this book for the first quarter of it, and then suddenly things picked up and hurtled toward some very unexpected conflicts. This is a book to buy in print, not on Kindle as I did; it's a book that revels in books, the highs and lows of giving oneself over to storytelling, and it would be comforting to read in a more tactile form.