It's enjoyable, and even fresh, these days, to read a book in which the cynical, selfish opportunist is the antagonist, and the protagonist is a straightforwardly decent man. This is such a book.
I very much enjoyed the first-person viewpoint character, an ex-soldier discharged after an injury who happens across a prince in distress. (That's a convenient coincidence, but it's the only one the plot relies on.) Kemen Sendoa is a big man from a dark-skinned ethnic minority, raised as a soldier as is the tradition with foundlings and orphans in his country. Women are scared of him. Men are wary of him. He'd really like to settle down and have a family, but that's not going to happen, he's pretty sure. He's lost friends, he's battered by injury (and becomes more battered as the story progresses), but he retains a powerful loyalty to his country and its people.
His mentoring of the young prince is firm, but not harsh. When he's hailed as a hero for fighting off raiders, he's genuinely modest about it. He's not without his secret shame, though, and he does have a character arc as he confronts it.
The prince is less fully rounded, but definitely has a lot of development in the course of the book, under Sendoa's guidance. Rather than giving us a training montage, the author spends considerable time on the process of his training, which I welcome as more realistic than the usual "Chosen One is whiny and won't put in the work, succeeds anyway when put under pressure" trope.
I did occasionally feel that I was reading a geography textbook about the setting, and although it was relatively interesting and didn't go on and on, I did feel that the background information could have been incorporated into the narrative more smoothly or left out altogether. It wasn't quite what I would consider infodump, but it was headed in that direction.
The language (apart from a few common errors which I will pass on to the author) was smooth and competent and didn't distract from the story.
Overall, enjoyable. On my 0-9 subscale within the 4-star range, this scores a 3, but it shows enough potential that I'm anticipating a 5 from the sequel.
The author gave me a review copy in expectation of an honest review.
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)