Book 1 of the Lescari Revolution. This is very much series fantasy, but this first book does a very good job of setting things up and finding, if not a resolution, a good degree of achievement and interest by the end.
Lescar, amusingly, is structured perfectly for this sort of tale, though that happened right at the beginning of the Einarinn books. Six dukedoms, not at all alike in dignity, but set up almost ideally for the Sorting Algorithm of Evil. There’s no attempt to paint any of the dukes as less than greedy warmongering megalomaniacs, which at least is thoroughly consistent with all the past portrayals of the Lescari government. A few of the lesser nobles are shown a bit more sympathetically, and some even take part in the revolution, but they’re never shown even attempting to take it over or get away with their Superior Breeding. We see smart, educated tradesmen and guildsmen as well as peasants – in fact, we mostly see the former, partly because a lot of the action happens in the university town of Vanam. (The continent has two universities, Vanam and Col, and there’s a terrible rivalry between them. Sometimes you can tell McKenna went to Oxbridge.)
Sympathetic people do unpleasant things; unpleasant people do good things; there’s a lot of moral ambiguity and are-we-doing-the-right-thing questioning, and she doesn’t shy away from messy, nasty deaths.
The only criticism I’d make is that this book covers a great deal of ground, and sometimes stretches itself to do so. Unlike the earlier books, there are quite a few POV characters, and whilst she handles them well it does create rather a disjointed feeling when we skip to someone else and months of activity have gone past.