It works better if you read it the way he describes it in the author's notes, which is basically an AU version of the story and characters, with some things that work and some things that don't Short version- your mileage may vary (he himself says that some of the changes made to Jineh weren't successful, and he's not wrong, wow, I cannot even with this new Jineh stuff). I'm not sure if it works better if you know the characters and original plot already, or if it works better if you don't know them at all. I read one review online that praised the fact that we get into Kenshin's head more than in the early volumes of the manga, and another review of it that felt the original story was more successful precisely because we don'tget a lot of Kenshin's inner thoughts and his reasons for becoming a rurouni who doesn't kill until later in the story, after we've gotten to know him through his actions and his unique speech patterns, which is something you can do if you've got more space rather than writing a short story.
It's weird- it's not the way the story went in the movie, but it's not the earlier anime or manga, and it really does feel like an author gleefully getting to write fanfic of their own work- especially when you get things like Sano casually mentioning that he learned his technique from a fallen monk, or Megumi turning up briefly to care for some folks that Jineh wounded. Saitoh gets to be in both some flashbacks (Dear Saitoh: You should know better than to be trying to have a peaceful smoke on the streets of Kyoto when Battousai is around.... Dear Battousai: Stop pranking the Wolf of Mibu by slashing his cigarettes in half with godlike speed...) and actual conversations with Kenshin about why Kenshin swore never to kill again and why he doesn't feel like he will ever fit into the new era and whether that does or does not mean he's a naive idiot (no points for guessing Saitoh's vote). Psychologically interesting, and the whole larger issue of "those who lived through and fought in the Bakumatsu versus those who grew up and live in the peaceful Meiji era" is one that resonates-- what do you do when the only person who might understand your mindset is a former deadly enemy-- ... but I just can't see Kenshin actually having that kind of conversation with anybody, ESPECIALLY Saitoh, until, say, he's been married to Kaoru for a couple of years.
We also get a Kenshin who's kind of.... angrier? Really early on, he says something about how he's "a completely different person" if he even grasps the hilt of his sword, let alone if he actually draws it, and there are a lot of other moments where he seems like somebody who hasn't actually been practicing the whole "non-killing" thing for ten years. He's a LOT quicker to go for violence, and a lot more violent when he does it. The whole obfuscating "oro"-ing "just a wanderer, that I am" stupidity isn't quite there, which would have worked a lot better if this were a prequel rather than an AU-- although then you run into the problem of not being able to have the other characters in the story.
(seriously, does this look like somebody who has been wandering around Japan learning to be harmless and not kill people for ten years?)
I'm not even sure what to do with the fact that this Kenshin is shown as a) not knowing that the reverse-blade sword isn't suited for battoujutsu (enabling Jineh to wound him, rather than Kenshin using the double battoujutsu move to break Jineh's arm and prove that he earned his nickname) but somehow at the same time b) knowing the Hiten Mitsrugi style's ultimate move. That first one again seems to indicate that this is a Kenshin who hasn't had time to really adjust to the new blade, but the second one... yeah, there's no reason for that, except to make the fight with Jineh more dramatic and stabbity.