Ruka has found himself as a prisoner of the Sri Kon island monarch, Farahi, but has decided to make the best of his situation. Learning their language, technology, and ways, he's rapidly rising in favor of his captor. Ruka believes that he can lead his people to the islands and conquer them in order to forge a new homeland for them due to the climate being much more amendable to growing food.
Kale has gained the power of sorcery and believes it gives him the ability to retake his homeland from the foreign invaders that have seized it. He imagines himself to be prophet, hero, and champion but the circumstances are far more complicated than he has been led to believe. In his desire to "rescue" his father, he potentially endangers his homeland as well as the plans made to save his people.
Dala, sadly, doesn't play a very big role but what she does in her short time on "camera" is more than enough to establish her as an incredibly intelligent and ruthless power player. Ruka can conquer virtually any nation and has the charisma to win over men with nothing to lose but actually persuading a nation to support him is something that he can't pull off. Dala is able to compensate for these problems and embodies the old saying, "Behind every great man is a woman with a bucket to clean up after him."
Dala's relative absence is compensated for by the fact that we get a much closer look to the royal family of Sri Kon. Farahi is a fascinating character that reminds me a bit of Paul Atreides in that he is cursed with divination and the responsibilities knowing the "best" path to take can result in. His sister is also an amazing character as she's the exact opposite of a typical princes sin these stories, driven by rage and a desire to push her brother to becoming a conquering warlord. If she had dragons, she might be another Targaryen.
Fans of George R.R. Martin will like the cynical yet realistic take on politics. The conflict between the Ashlanders and the Islanders is driven by resources as well as greed. Cultural inertia drives the narrative every bit as much as the protagonists. The heroes do appalling things in order to win and sometimes its better to be ruthless rather than kind. Also, even if you do everything "right", it sometimes ends up a disaster because of unplanned variables.
The book is full of action, adventure, twists, and turns. This is a definite dark and gritty series that focuses on world-building but doesn't get bogged down in extraneous details. The characters are both likable and repellent, guilty of horrible crimes but also fully realized in their motivations. Kale is the most heroic but also perhaps the most dangerous to the future of the islands. The magic system is well-developed too with sorcery being something you can channel but not really control. I strongly recommend this book and think fans of the original will not be disappointed.