This was one of the first properly ‘grown-up’ books I bought for myself, at the age of thirteen and it had a huge impact on me; yet I didn’t read it again until 2007 and I’ve just finished it for the third time. Overall, I still think it’s one of the most unusual and imaginative speculative fiction books I’ve read, and I’m immensely fond of its protagonist: a compelling antihero. Bookshops shelve it under sci-fi and fantasy, but there are also strong strains of historical fiction, Gothic horror and family saga. And it’s a fine example of fictional world-building. Over the course of the story you grow to understand the political dynamics of a state, and also its relationship with the wider world; its customs and traditions; its language; and, more than any of these things, its art.