Top critical review
Erratic Yet Unavoidable Conclusion
Reviewed in the United States on September 2, 2017
I held off my overall review of this series until this book, so here's my opinion of the previous installments:
Book 1 was a satisfactory burst of originality, drawing enough comparisons to many other prior fantasy novels to be considered a member of that clique, but perhaps not original *enough* to set itself above or even high in that clique. Score: 3 and half to 4 stars.
Book 2 continued to make a nod toward ideas that came before, namely the main event, the Elemental Games, which drew the obvious comparison in name to the Hunger Games but was actually more akin to the Triwizard Tournament from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The Games were less exciting than I expected, mostly because of the obvious parallel to those works (felt like I'd been there before), but also because the entire book was slow until it ended on a cliffhanger involving Kell, whose action which brought about the cliffhanger is rather unbelievable. Score: 3 stars.
Now, for Book 3. If you've read to Book 2, you *have* to read the third book because of the damn cliffhanger. My issue with this book is the lack in character development. I've read other reviews that comment on the abundance of character development, reviews written by people who read the books in the same way I did (over a period of less than a week). With such an uninterrupted amount of time to simply read, it's clear who develops into a round character and who doesn't. In my opinion (and I acknowledge that there are many opinions that might not agree with this), no one developed in a significant way.
Yes, Book 1 Rhy is a sheltered, spoiled prince but he's not a jerk and his desires to be a good brother, a good king, etc. remain the same throughout. Yes, Book 1 Lila is a lost little puppy without a purpose and by Book 3 she's found her calling. But her hasty, off-the-cuff actions are always used as a plot device to further the action.
Yes, Book 1 Kell is flawed: arrogant, broody-without-a-cause, weak, too emotional. And Book 3 Kell is the exact same.
All other characters might as well be considered wiser, weaker, or more damaged extensions of these three.
The story was unpredictable, yes. But I found myself less thrilled and more confused by the erratic nature of the action. One of the things I liked about the first book was the lack in detail of the magic; any story about magicians that delves too far into the magic or starts introducing new magic in the final act loses credibility and by the end of this book, I felt that line had been crossed. It's probably a hard thing to manage, even J.K. Rowling wasn't immune to that pitfall (see Deathly Hallows). And, finally, as others have noted, the final pages left a lot to be desired. It's another pitfall: book got to be too long, had to end it soon, so the author just sawed it off and left it rough around the edges rather than smooth.
It's not the worst book I've read, it's not the best series I've read. But if you started it, you have to finish it.