Allie's doing a much better job this time around of being a reasonable and more likable character; she's continued growing out of some of her overblown trust issues and stubbornness. The Hounds are also starting to get drawn into more of the Authority's business, although I hope to see that continue more in the next installment in the series.
We definitely learn a lot more in this book, including who's ultimately been behind the crazy things going on in Portland--and it clears a lot of things up. It also ups the stakes and shows that things are only getting more dangerous in Allie's world.
Allie's father steadily becomes a more complex and involved character, which I find absolutely fascinating. I'm sure he has plenty more plans and motives yet to be revealed, yet we find out a very satisfying chunk of what he's been up to.
Best of all, Devon Monk has one hell of an ability to depict magical combat which, let's face it, is hard to do well even in movies (much less books), in such a way that it's tense, edge-of-your-seat action. I felt totally engrossed in this installment, without the frustration of the middle books of the series.
On a personal note, I hate bureaucratic oversight plots (where someone comes from outside and upsets the apple cart and makes everyone prove that they can do their jobs). I find it feels a bit too depressingly real-life. If you're fine with those, awesome, and you'll love this installment even more than I did.
Despite my frustrations with the middle of the series, this is why I kept up with it--because the concepts and world-building are fabulous, many of the characters are consistently delightful, the action is tense and heart-pounding, and yes, the frustrations have been clearing up!