So, I liked it. That should be clear by the five star rating. So, I'll try to explain why.
The author described it as a cross between Dune and Downton Abbey. I had not heard that and then described it in the exact same way on twitter.
So: servants of the powerful witness and manipulate the events. I will never be able to read Dune again without imagining Duke Leto "encouraging" Paul while he faces the pain box:
"Fear is the little death, Paul. Have no fear. No, not like that, NO FEAR I SAID. Is it too hard
what I am asking of you? NO FEAR. Doesn't get any simpler than that. Fear? Stop having it!"
I was already a fan of the author's "Magic 2.0" series. This is not the same kind of book. Magic 2.0 is about adolescent characters granted seemingly unlimited power, while this is definitely a book about grownups.
For example, at one point you will consider Lord Jakabitus a buffoon. And then you will see, through another character's eyes, why he's not. And then he will rub it on your face. There is a lot of rubbing of things in people's faces, and people's faces on things in this book.
It's funny. Not jokey, but really funny, not funny like a clown, funny like that funny uncle that made faces in formal dinners (no, I did not have that uncle, but I hope you have one!).
All characters are competent. All characters have goals. All characters have identities and act to further their goals competently in the way their personalities would allow them. The action makes (mostly) sense, except where it doesn't matter.
And it has awesome high-concept gags, like:
* The mind-reading mechanical chair.
* Hahn cuisine
* Capozzian cuisine
I can't recommend this book strongly enough, except that:
1) Lots of people will really, really, really hate it.
2) I hope those who read it because I recommend it don't hate me because of it.