Blackblood sang a song:
"Hey, nonny-nonny, you there--
I'll call you Emerald."
It is funny what preconceived notions'll get you. I sure had some-- notably, I thought this was part of the same series as Escapement & Mainspring. I mean, I really did think it was, to the point of stretching my noggin with theories that we were south of the Equatorial Wall; that Kalimpura was Kuala Lumpur, that Copper Downs was Petra in Jordan (based on the language, Petraean). & also thought the Duke was going to turn out to be William of Ghent. Well first off, Mordicai, your geography sucks. The equator goes through Malaysia, but Kuala Lumpar is north of it, & Jordan & Petra are way north of it. So, that is the baggage I carried with me until finally I bought a clue. Second off, this has nothing to do with those other books.
I quite liked it! Let me respond to a couple other reviewers, so I can unclutter my tabs. Wolfeian? I don't think so. We've got a narrator but she ain't untrustworthy. If she lies or is wrong, that is part of the story. She isn't lying to the reader, & that meta is the alchemy Gene Wolfe has wrought, wroughts. Is wroughting. That is what Gene Wolfe does. There is worldbuilding here of a subtle sort; flavorful & excellent. Maybe if Kuala Lumpur had drifted into Kalipura over 10,000 years & everything was crazy? But I think no. & as to the concern about the cover art, I waffle. It certainly is gorgeous, & the blood in the airs, the cuts on the face, the pomegranate tree; all clearly indicate the artist was well coached or had read a significant portion of the book. A book in which she's clearly brown. Brown enough to think people of light complexions are "maggot coloured." So, yeah, troubling, but there you go. There are almondy, eyes-- a commenter suggests the artist was told to go for "Asian." I'm inclined to agree with that theory; though like the reviewer, I saw her being Southeast Asian (see also: Malaysia).
Enough talking around the book. You had me at "female protagonist of colour" & a non-Western influenced setting. The frame story carries a little girl into a house with harsh teachers trying to make her into a lady. Then on from there into a temple of female assassins. Then back into the town for a mythic confrontation with divinity. Lake dances the story from one place to the next plausibly & richly. Kalimpura is the place for me; I really found it engaging & plausible. Lake depicts the gods & goddesses with flare, though I'm usually opposed to the "gods need prayers for power!" aspect of some fantasy yarns, it wasn't pushed here. Green herself is precocious, but not enough to prick the bubble of suspension of disbelief. She is angry & makes mistakes, but not enough for you to write her off, & not melodramatic enough to suborn the story. She's caught up in the center of each unlikely event, but has fate, destiny, the fickle finger of spirits & psychopomps all pushing their agenda, so it hangs. She doesn't turn away from the plot of the story, but isn't as caught up with large events as she could be-- she plays her part & lets what happens off camera happen off camera. She holds on to her past, but in a way that doesn't telegraph the rest of the story. Plus, she ninja fights a lot, which is pretty great.