The good news is there is a new, excellent translation of this 1964 novel by the Strugatsky brothers.
Unlike the earlier translation, which Ken MacLeod had difficulty reading, “No reader of this fine new translation will have that reaction. The story grips from start to finish: a smooth and fast gallop full of colour, adventure, action, and intrigue. Set on a feudal planet entering – and a kingdom being violently held back from entering – its equivalent of the Renaissance, it was at first conceived as an exciting adventure story in the manner of The Three Musketeers, albeit with alien (i.e. in this case human) observers caught up in the caper. The beginnings of a reaction in the early 1960s against the post-Stalin Soviet ‘thaw’ in cultural policy made the authors deepen and darken the tale, to present a strong and subtle argument about morality, politics, and history.” — Ken McLeod’s Introduction to the new translation by Olena Bormashenko
see Strange Horizon’s review by Gautam Bhatia