I borrowed this from Confluence recently. It's a beautifully written book with a lyrical quality that one doesn't often find in prose.
I jumped straight in to the story, skipping the explanatory note at the beginning. Possibly I would have found the story easier to understand in terms of geopolitical stuff if I had read it first. Also, I would have liked for this book to have had a map so that I had a clearer idea of the geography and whereabouts events were taking place. As it is I found the story fairly easy to follow without it, though there were a number of questions I had.
This is not the sort of book that ties everything up neatly for the reader. This is the sort of book that leaves you with questions. Nagging thoughts that simmer in the back of your brain as you try to work out just what exactly it is that things are supposed to mean and whether or not you got all the nuances that you were supposed to.
If you don't like to think about things, especially those complicated things that make people uncomfortable, then this is not a book you should read.