This book has some of the most gorgeous language I've read in years. It is lush, rich, and evocative. In places it reads like long form poetry (which should come as no huge shock since Samatar writes poetry as well). It reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Percy Shelley. Here's the thing though: very little happens. The plot is frustrating slow. The main character is (intentionally I think) fairly neutral and acts as a reader insert into the well built world. I found myself reading at a snail's pace, and for the length of the book it took me twice as long to read as it should have. It was hard to bring myself to pick it up, and exceedingly easy to put it back down. I just couldn't engage with the story.
There were pieces of the book, stories within the story, that had my full attention. One section in particular, toward the end, was fully engaging. There were even snippets of prose that I copied down to reread later. It was beautifully crafted, and I'm actually looking forward to trying out some of Samatar's short stories. As far as novels go, however, I need a more solid story and characters in order to really connect to and enjoy a book. This one wasn't for me, but I would recommend it to readers that want to be transported to a well crafted world, and to linger there indefinitely amidst some truly lovely writing. Just steer clear if you need a decent dose of plot and characterization in your stories.