People have been telling me for years that I need to read something -- anything -- by Guy Gavriel Kay. Then they describe his settings by telling me about how it's like Byzantine-era Europe, or Imperial China, but it's really it's own thing, and I should just go read it, but I don't know enough history for these sorts of plugs to hook me.
A secondary-world fantasy setting that does NOT feel like medieval Europe wearing a wizard hat is actually pretty appealing to me, but what really drives a book for me is interesting people doing interesting things to which I can relate. I want characters with depth in a setting that can engage my imagination without confusing me.
Sailing to Sarantium does all of this. From the outset the reader knows that this is not our world, but it definitely feels familiar. And I think that's all I really need to say about the setting. It's not our world, but it'll feel familiar, and it will be fun to learn more about as the story unfolds.
And it's a fine story, with rich characters, moments both heroic and horrific, all presented in a way that makes even the mundane details engaging. Yes, I'm helped along by the fact that our protagonist is an artist with an ornery streak and a gift for turning an insulting phrase, but I'm sure more people than just me will identify with him.