Like Fool's Assassin before it, this is an extremely slow-moving book. In fact, it moved so slowly that I had to check to make sure that Fitz's daughter, Bee, had in fact been kidnapped already at the end of the previous book. Since I read it as an ARC, and this not until six months or so after the paperback came out, it's been quite a while and I considered the possibility that the kidnapping scene I remembered had actually been an excerpt from this book. We're well into the book before Fitz or the Fool realizes what was obvious to the reader midway through Fool's Assassin: that Bee is a White. There are reasons why one of the biggest LJ communities devoted to the world a couple of trilogies ago was called fitz_is_stupid.
Slow though this book is, it will rip your heart out, over and over. Robin Hobb has spent decades building these characters and making us love them all the while that we want to grab them and shake them. This is absolutely not a book to start with. It's not even a sub-series to start with. More so than the Tawny Man trilogy and Fool's Assassin, I would say it's necessary to have read all of the Realm of the Elderlings novels before this, not just all of the Fitz books, since near the end of the book it intersects rather heavily with the Rain Wilds quartet. But it is so worth it.