The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear

“What works so well in just about every Bear book are her characters, which always feel finely drawn and solidly connected to the story they are in. The plot hews closely to the whole band-of-rogues-assemble-to-fight-stronger-band-of-foes, but this is a feature rather than a bug. Bear noodles around that trope like a jazz master and takes the story to some interesting places where she can examine privilege, toxic pasts, and gender identities – with, of course, magic and mayhem and mud. Lots and lots of mud.

It’s hard to talk about the first book in a trilogy, if only because it isn’t intended to feel like it comes to a complete closure. This book ends by setting the next part of the story up well and making this reader wish she had the next book within arm’s reach so that she can find out what happens next.” — Locus