I picked this book up in a 3 for 2 deal just before coming away, having heard someone in my book group recommend it. Due to time being on the short side, I didn't read reviews of it and any publicity associated with it winning the Costa prize went straight over my head. So, I dived in and found it a rather rocky read - at times I was turning pages quickly, enjoying the vivid descriptions and admiring the fine writing. At other times, however, I felt adrift in the history and politics of the setting and had to ask Mark for clarification. There are reviews and critiques all over the web (here, here and here for example), however, so I won't add my thoughts to the heap, with one exception.
I groaned at exactly the same place as everyone else, it seems.