Another reviewer here commented: "How bad could it really be? I found out."
Well . . . it certainly wasn't Ringo. Ringo has a way of drawing you into a story, painting bright, hard-cornered word-pictures for you to devour in convenient chunks. OK, yeah, sometimes he data-dumps more than I'd like. And he spends too much time dwelling on "what came before", as if anyone is going to pick up the third, fourth, fifth, or (in this case) sixth volume without reading the earlier books first. Damn it, Ringo, I already know who these people are, and why they're working together. The rest of you, go read Ghost and Kildar; you ain't ready for this yet.
Ryan Sear, whoever he is, is clearly the lead author, here. He's also, clearly, read the earlier books. What he doesn't have is Ringo's depth, or crispness. He puts sentences in characters' mouths that are, flatly, out of character. And I don't mean that the information conveyed is necessarily wrong, or that the character wouldn't say something along those lines at that point, I mean the way the words come out of their mouths is wrong. So many of the Kildar's speeches sound, sorry, stilted. And don't get me started on Katya and her Russified English with half the articles missing. First of all, she speaks better English than that in the other books. Second, Jay would kick her ass for speaking English like that around her boss or other members of the team. He'd probably say, "Never miss an opportunity to learn, padawan," or something like that.
Worse are Sear's data dumps. Honestly, I don't care what kind of ammunition Lasko is using. Or at least, I don't care who makes it and where it came from and what lot number was on the box and whether or not the guy who made it got laid the night before. (Just kidding about that last bit.) I mean, Ringo can go on and on, but this was too much. A little bit of that goes a long way, kid. That said, I'll give Sear points for not overdoing the character backstory dumps. Most of them were economical and didn't detract from the line of the story.
Anyway, I can live with most of that. It wasn't as bad as reading Pratchett's posthumous "Raising Steam", which I had to struggle to finish and read like a verbatim transcript of Pratchett dictating the story for later detailed wordsmithing. (Which it may have been.) Just, most of the characters were "off", and the general storytelling was forced; it just didn't read like Pratchett. Similarly, this book didn't read like Ringo.
The new kid, Vanel, and his girlfriend Xatia, seem like nice additions to the cast. Vanel is a young kid with mad skills trying to impress the boss. Xatia . . . we don't find out much about, really. The reviewer who said this book needed more character development is probably right. Other new characters are kind of two-dimensional. But we have to remember, we've had five previous books to build up the recurring group of characters.
Finally, my personal bugaboo: The proofreading really kind of sucked. At the very least, couldn't someone have gone through with a spellchecker and found all the places where COL Nielson's name was spelled, "Neilson"? (Sometimes it flip-flopped back and forth from one paragraph to the next.)
Despite the essentially technical issues such as outlined above, I think there was a really good Paladin of Shadows book buried in this plot. It just didn't shine through like it would have if Ringo had written it. But it does advance the story and broadens the worldview of the Keldara. From what Ringo has been musing about on Facebook, this book probably needs to be read to move on to the next chapter(s) he has up his sleeve, and that's mostly why I broke down and finally did, despite the poor reviews.