I have audio version of The Steel Remains on tap in my listening queue. After reading this, I'm all the more excited to get into it.
For me, any fiction of nobles and swords necessarily HAS to be a story of corruption, injustice and savagely violent conflict - because any other treatment is going to have all the heft and realistic honesty of a bedtime fairy tale for five year olds. Noir is above all an ADULT form. It's a narrative technique which deals in the ubiquitous nature of humanity's failings under pressure - and there are few places you'd see those failings so luridly played out as in the pre-modern societies so beloved of most epic fantasy. Forget Chandler's nineteen thirties LA mean streets - what do you think the mean streets of your average feudal city state would have looked like? And what would you have to go through to extract some modicum of justice from that reeking mess?