10/25/12 ** Finished it last night - great conclusion to the series. At 600 pages, I'm really glad that it came out as a single book! I have to admit that I peeked to the end to see what happened with Han and Raisa; otherwise I wouldn't have made it through all the plot twists.
This series is well worth reading from the beginning before you begin the final volume. There are many characters and political factions to keep straight. I thoroughly enjoyed the mixture of high-fantasy, suspense, and political intrigue. Though this is the final episode in this series, I could easily see a new series set in this world. Raisa, Han, Dancer and Michah have many issues to resolve in a land that is still at war. As with so many excellent fantasy writers (i.e. Tamora Pierce), Chima skillfully incorporates issues from our own world into her stories, causing the reader to reflect on the kind of world we want even as we enjoy her world. For example, Willow's story about the conception of Dancer has strong resonance as we listen to some of the 2012 campaign rhetoric. Likewise, the struggles of Clan, wizards, and vale folk help us consider tolerance of differences. Finally, we have the privilege of seeing lesbian couples as just one piece of the mix of life relationships.
Also, loved the inscription Cinda Chima wrote in my first edition: "To Margaret, who believes in the magic of books."
Thanks Cinda for an excellent series of books; I look forward to reading many more.
10/19/12 ** Seeing Cinda Williams Chima at Books by the Banks tomorrow. Will be getting a signed copy of this a few days before the official release date. Can't wait to get started... Wait, I didn't wait... I read the first chapter on Chima's website! Hmmm...will have to keep working on my dissertation too. Uh Oh.