Personal enjoyment is the only factor in my rating. Three stars is an OK book. This review is about my impressions of the story and should not be interpreted as an attack on the novel or the author.
This story had the feeling of being filler and a time-waster for the next term to start. There was no advancement of the plot, just expansion of the scope. By this point in a series, I like to see the basic plot mostly fleshed out and progressing. I do not like the plot to be continually expanding the farther the series continues. This is not true of slice-of-life stories, as the plot is never really defined.
The overall tone of the book seemed significantly more somber than the other two novels. This translated into a dislike for four of our significant characters, leaving Mara as the only one that didn't drive me to distraction multiple times. Part of this is due to the characters not changing their attitudes, feelings or thought processes even after multiple life-endangering events.
Another thing that I disliked, was the moral and philosophical bent of much of the book. I read for the escape from the rigors of modern-day U.S. society that fiction may provide. The story may be interpreted as being a commentary on the need for social equality and the change that is needed to advance that cause. It could also be interpreted in a completely opposed manner to my former statement. It really depends on who is reading and their frame of mind at the time of reading the book.
Looking back at my review, I see that it is mostly negative. Fortunately, the issues discussed are fairly minor points and only impacted my enjoyment a bit. I will attempt to read book four but may end the series at that point.