Michael Moorcock is well known for having strong views on what type of fantasy he likes and what he doesn't. For instance, he doesn't like Tolkien but does like Peake, to whose memory he dedicated this book. It's a long time since I read the Gormenghast trilogy but there are some obvious parallels although I didn't dwell on these; I wanted it to stand up as a story in it's own right. And it certainly did.
The events of this story take place in some kind of alternative version of our history at which the British empire (referred to here as "Albion") is at it's hight and in the midst of an apparent golden age of glory and peace. The focus is on the fictional queen "Gloriana" (who seemed to me some kind of cross between Elizabeth the 1st and Victoria) and the rather large cast of characters who spend much of their time in and around the labyrinthine palace, from the lordly to the lowly, the lords, ladies, ambassadors, spies, soldiers, poets, rogues and the mysterious characters who roam the lost corridors and rooms in the forgotten depths of the palace.
Although the author can't help but weave into the story mention of the multi-verse and hints of characters that one might have read else where from his extensive canon, once the new facts of the situation are accepted, little suspension of disbelief is required. The story is concerned with the intricacies and intrigues of court and political life. Gradually the facade crumbles and the perfect vision of Albion and the Queen are revealed for the myth that they are.
Stylistically, this is quite different from anything else I've read by Moorcock and it proves his versitility as a writer. An engaging storyline and intriguing characters made this a very enjoyable read. Not for younger readers as it contains some very adult themes but I can see why it is regarded by some as a masterwork of fantasy.