I guess I've embarked on an effort to read this series backwards - I read 'Steelhands' (the fourth) and then moved on to this book (the third.)
I'm definitely still missing a lot, as far as background info. However, I enjoyed this one a bit more.
It's a fairly simple plot - a bunch of different people all find themselves questing around for the same thing, and gradually come together for a dynamic showdown... along the way there's a lot of wandering about the desert - but the characters are engaging and entertaining.
Two of the main characters, Thom and Rook, reminded me a lot of Felix and Mildmay in Sarah Monette's Melusine books. If you enjoy that type of fantasy (which I do), I'd hazard a guess that you'd like these too.