I didn't like the visit to the Emperor's palace. I thought Rosethorn acted completely out of character regarding the bush and the Emperor was too two dimensional to be a good villain. It seemed like the book might be on to something by introducing the Yanjingi characters as people and then putting them on the opposite side of the war, but it blew it with the torture scenes. "Nope, nope, they really are just evil!"
In all, the weakest Emelan novel by far. The sidequest did provide some character development for Rosethorn, but the pacing was flatly bizarre. The link between the real life Tibet/China conflict was too heavy handed and the rest of the plot was bland and predictable.