Note: I received a review copy through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The demon Dismay/Smoke is in what turns out to be essentially self-imposed exile from his native country. He’s viewed as evil by those in power in the land of his exile. That’s because he answers the prayers of abused women desperate to escape misogynistic violence. There’s no shortage of such women in Lutawa, a land where oppression of women is such a bedrock of the culture and law that it’s a capital offence to teach a woman to read. That could be the basis of a dull political tract, but fear not — it’s a highly entertaining “overthrow the evil ruler” quest fantasy. It’s also the sequel to an earlier book, but I found that it worked well enough as a standalone. Occasionally I was left wondering about some detail of the world that must have been given in the first book, but in general Nagata feeds in enough backstory over the course of the book that all is clear by the end.
The book’s theme is fairly dark, and the text can be dark to the point of disturbing in places, but there’s nothing gratuitous about the nastier bits. And it’s well leavened by humour and character development. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, and the pacing does suffer slightly from it being a sequel, but I liked this one a lot.