||Ok, so after waiting quite a while to purchase this product, I finally did and gave it a thorough read before writing this review. So I'm going to go over a few different factors that influenced my rating:
1) THE BOOK
The physical book is of rather shoddy quality. The paper is light weight, especially compared to other Exalted softcovers, including Glories. The size is slightly off from both Glories and the other softcovers (irksome). The printing does not actually go to the edge of the page, which is confusing since Glories did, so it's not a DriveThruRPG thing, as far as I can tell.
The font is smaller and the white space larger, which leads to a somewhat different personal reading experience than what you're used to when reading other Exalted books.
It's also half the size of a normal Exalted softcover, but since it was several dollars cheaper, I do not hold that against it.
Physically: 1 star.
2) CHAPTER 1
The opening story was pretty bad. The attempt seems to be to try and mythology the origin of the Timeless Order of Manacle and Coin, but... as it's told like a myth, but in the standard Exalted 3rd person omniscient, it comes off as complete truth. Complete and very unbelievable... it makes the Maiden of Endings far more of a bludgeon than the finesse lady that she has been presented as before.
From Birth of the Guild on, however, the story gets better. Not fantastic, but better. The description of its structure is shallow and a caricature of a modern corporate entity.
The Birth of the Guild does, however, retcon Brem Marst's backstory in an attempt to make it more vague. However, this is both unnecessary and goes against the amount of paperwork we know the Guild keeps, so it comes off as rather jarring and breaks my willing suspension of disbelief. Other than that, the rest of the story is a shorter version of Manacle and Coin's story.
Most of this chapter is a condensing of Manacle & Coin, and that's OK but seems odd, as it leaves out certain things like Guild leadership - that is, they talk about Hierarchs, but they leave out the details of the Hierarchs already named in canon. (See my notes on Chapter 4.)
Overall, it was decent with only a few flub ups, and not nearly enough detail on how the guild actually processes. For a better version of this chapter, see Manacle and Coin.
Chapter 1: 2 stars.
3) CHAPTER 2
The Guild in every direction.
This is a much better chapter and was sorely lacking in Manacle and Coin. It's a much better treatment of how the guild operates. Very solid, but nothing stellar.
You can mine this chapter for plot details over and over.
Chapter 2: 3 stars.
3) CHAPTER 3
A fantastic treatise on the supernatural powers and trade the Guild goes into. I'm really not sure what else to say on this chapter other than that it was worth the read (if you divide up the cost of the book by chapter, then... yes, it was very much worth the read).
Except for one... glaring hitch: the Liminal Exalted. They're called the Chernozem, which we don't know if that's a caste or a description of their type of Exalted (such as Lawgiver). It means black earth.
Now, while the Infernals had been in the game as early as Games of Divinity, and thus made a natural addition to the game in 2nd Edition, and Alchemicals were also an early addition to the game, the Liminals have come out of the proverbial left field.
To say I have apprehensions about the writer's ability to fit this into the setting smoothly would be the understatement of the Second Age. Unless they are an incredibly new development, I do not see a way to do so. If they are an incredibly new development... well then that puts in a lot more questions, which may be interesting to answer, but will also be very difficult to answer with grace and poise. So while I admit that good writing could make this an Author Saving Throw, it seems to be quite a horrible blunder so far.
Chapter 3: would be 4 stars, but Liminals brings it down to 3. (I reserve the right to change this later.)
5) CHAPTER 4
Uh... what can I say about this?
By that, I mean the information is solid, but they changed the Hierarchs for reasons I cannot comprehend. It's not like the old Hierarchs were boring or in some way interfered with the goals of making Exalted awesome. They were the best example of what Mortals could do (in 1st Edition, anyway).
Manacle & Coin's statement that there are nine Hierarchs got changed to, "At least nine..." Uh... ok.
Much of the chapter kind of reads like a bad indictment of Corporate America from a person who does not understanding how capital and markets work (as opposed to a thoughtful indictment by those who do and write it into their fiction).
However, this is not to say the entire chapter reads that way. Much of it is decent. It does help make sense of how the Guild has survived amidst so many supernatural factions.
Would merit a 3 for being decent, but not earth shattering, if not for the unneeded retcons.
Chapter 4: 2 stars.
A much needed system for Exalted's bureaucracy. However, like Mandate of Heaven, it does not smoothly integrate into the Bureaucracy charms which exist. The theory is great, but it creates a need to errata almost all Bureaucracy charms, with some noted powerful (perhaps too powerful) exceptions.
Appendix: 3 stars.
2 and 1/3 stars. Rounded down to 2.
Honestly, I would not buy again. However, if the physical component of the book were brought up to par, I would buy it on sale (but not at the price I paid).
[2 of 5 Stars!]