OK, so I realize that I have big shoes to fill because I loved Freeman’s suggestion.
I’m bringing up Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, also an IO9 suggestion, found Here.
I’m not going to rehash what the IO9 link says, other than it was like Game of Thrones but not to the level of threatening to rape someone with a sword type of story. There are pretty neat ideas of technology, epic sweeping battles and political intrigue aplenty but not dragons and drowned gods, so.
The gist is how there are multiple ends to any means, and that getting the job done in the first place is not always the hardest part. The characters are well drawn out and they develop nicely, albeit not on the most linear path, as the story takes place over a few decades.
It’s a nice complex yarn that really struck a chord with me, so hope you check it out. Also the second book, The Wall of Storms, comes out today, so there you go.