This series started with a great deal of promise, in Smiler’s Fair, and continued – in rather more of a muddle – with The Hunter’s Kind, which expanded the story’s world, but also fumbled a little with the interconnections and grander scale. In this last book, while Levene introduces a a number of intriguing elements, she again doesn’t quite manage to form them into a coherent and satisfying whole.
Levene seems intent on introducing new territories in each volume – each different, each interesting – but doesn’t do a great job of tying them together. They feel a bit more like adjacent maps in a video game than natural territories. Each is intriguing, but none is really explored as well as I’d have liked. This third book suffers in particular from the lack of an included map; I had trouble piecing together where characters were supposed to be, and how they happened to be near each other when I’d read the text to say otherwise. Even the map from the first book (with little detail on the Eternal Empire) would have been helpful.
The characters as a whole continue from the second book without much change, though some key relationships are skipped over. In The Hunter’s Kind, for example, I wasn’t sold on Krish/Yron simply giving up and accepting his father and former enemy. Here, Krish is all-in on the relationship, frequently alluding to what his father would do or like, even when – in the latter half of the book – the father and his kingdom have been unceremoniously dropped from the story entirely.
The end of the story makes an effort to gather all the threads and tie them off, but it’s a messy business. It’s thinly credible at best, and unsatisfying. All in all, it seems to me that Levene has taken a host of good ideas and characters and tried to cram them all into too small a story. The result is an interesting stew, but the ingredients are hard to make out, and it doesn’t have a clearly defined flavor. I would have liked to see each of these parts and locales more thoroughly explored. As it is, I didn’t feel I knew any part of the world very well, and the characters never really found a resolution. Even the central theme of gods and religions feels more as if it’s been abandoned than confronted.