This should be read as the first book in the series, start with this then read Of Last Resort, then since you will love the characters read In Despair. The characters are stubborn cusses that will test your patience even as they test each other. This has a fascinating twist of self-derision that turns out to be an allergy…it is an interesting concept. The ending winds up a bit abrupt but it is certainly worth reading…if you are completely squicked by homosexuality then you might want to give it a skip. Honestly it is almost a background thing, if you imagine that Kristof could be a girls name then you would enjoy this fantasy novel greatly. There is one, extremely brief, semi explicit scene but that is near the beginning and the rest is a fascinating character study.