Ever since Ria first did magic, the world has been turned upside down. Now, war is brewing and the Church is stronger than ever. Only a quest to save the Elemental Spheres could prevent this war, but do they still even exist?
As usual, this review will be divided between what I liked and didn't like of the book, although I'm having a bit of a hard time making my mind up on a few of these points. There will be spoilers, but I promise to put a warning before I talk about any of them.
What I liked:
- The Beginning: if you remember the last book, you'll know it left us at a cliffhanger, with the lives of a few characters hanging in the balance. The beginning of this book picks up a short while from when the previous one left off. The tension of the cliffhanger pervades the first chapters of the book, setting the stage for the rest of the events to come as the readers don't know if their favorite characters will live or die within the first couple of pages. And that brings me to the next point.
- The Risks: while in the last few books, only a few lives were changed by the circumstances introduced, in this one, Birt certainly upped the stakes. Entire cities hang in the balance in this novel. (SPOILER) After the first few pages, where Darag and Niri miraculously survive the attack in the Temple of Ice, despite having died, I was honestly afraid that Birt wouldn't be able to go through with killing any of her characters, which I really thought the book needed, as she seemed to make them almost untouchable. But when the battle begins and a few secondary characters drop, I could tell she meant business... almost, at least. I'll discuss this in the next section of what I didn't like.
- The Romance: after the events of the last book, it's no wonder that Niri is moving on from Ty. Birt, however, made this transition very natural, setting the foundations for it in the last book and fleshing it out in this one. The attraction had been there early, but Birt made sure to grow the relationship around it, building it up slowly and allowing the characters to truly start loving each other rather than forcing them into the situation.
- The Plot: well structured and solved. It was a little Deus Ex Machina at the very end, but Birt made sure to include a very decent battle scene right before. It was never too easy for the characters, and the risks were always clearly enormous. In fact, the Deus Ex Machina comes AFTER the battle. The war was decided by actual fighting rather than a miraculous way to stop it, and I appreciated the fight that happened within these pages.
What I didn't like:
- Descriptions: in her other books, one of the greatest strengths that Birt had was creating exotic locations in her writing, describing new cities, and her description of sailing. Unfortunately this book had a lot less of that. I'm not sure if she couldn't fit it in as there was a lot of action taking up the pages, or that she thought that maybe it wasn't necessary to include it anymore, since she'd already described most of the locations in previous books. Either way, I missed it, and I could have done with more passages on that.
- A few character issues: I'm just going to lump them all together into a single point because I honestly have no clue what to call them individually. There's going to be a few spoilers in here, so feel free to skip over it all. Anyway, first of all, I already discussed Niri and Khodan getting together, but what was very unrealistic was Ty's reaction to it. After his attitude in the past books, and at the beginning of this one, his reaction of being completely OK with it seemed too strange. My next mini point is Lavinia. I have previously thought that the characters in this series are a little overpowered, and with characters like that, Lavinia and Ty were a breath of fresh air. But suddenly, Lavinia just isn't normal anymore... I did not enjoy that twist. I guess it turned out to be important to the plot, but I still didn't like it. The war was indeed fought over magic, and between Elementals, but I liked hearing how other people were affected by all these abilities in this book. The world between these pages isn't just Elementals, there's regular people too, and I'm disappointed that we get so few glimpses of them. My last little problem: not daring to kill off a primary character. With such a large cast of primary characters, I thought she had plenty of choices. With so many characters, how could all of them survive. Birt played it safe in this book, and I wish she'd dared to go on and take another chance, go for it, and write off a primary character rather than having the secondary ones drop like flies.
All in all, a satisfying conclusion to the series. Also, it didn't have as many of those little pesky editing slips and typos from before. Birt's series was well-developed, with a vast but varied cast of characters. An easy but fun read, full of magic and set in a beautifully created world. I enjoyed the series more than I initially thought I would, and I may read more of Birt's work in the future.