Cons: Kat is too angry, Tom is too powerful, ending is too tidy
Tom has met with the goddess Thaiss and returns to Thaiburley, the City of a Hundred Rows to renew the core. Meanwhile, those who were killed by the bone flu transform into Rust Warriors and attack the upper levels, taking the core block hostage.
Kat and Tylus have their own quest, to find and kill both the Soul Thief and Insint, hiding in the Stain, the most dangerous area of the city below.
Kat was my favourite character in the first two books due to her intelligence and skill. While she was always standoffish and 'pricklish', she spends the first half of this book angry and sullen. I had a harder time sympathizing with her bi*chy attitude.
Tom has become so powerful that there was little tension in the book. Every time he faced an enemy, he stepped up his attack ability and wiped it out. Even big battle characters (whether faced by him or other major characters) were dispatched with little effort and less of the fantastic fighting that was seen in the previous books. And while some of the peripheral characters became expendable, I had little fear for the protagonists.
Similarly, the ending was a little too perfect. Nearly every loose end was tied up, even those of the smaller characters who had little impact on the book itself. Part of this novel follows Dewar and his vendetta against those who exiled him, a side plot that ties in surprisingly well with what's happening in the city. It was all too pat.
On the whole, I found the book boring and anti-climactic.
*** Spoiler section ***
This section deals specifically with the ending, so if you don't want the book seriously spoiled, don't read this.
The main conflict was with the Rust Warriors who decimated parts of the upper city. Yet, there's no true resolution to this conflict. Tom renews the core and... that's it. It's never stated how the Rust Warriors are actually defeated - do they stop moving and have to be cleared away? Do they turn to dust and vanish? Similarly we're told in passing that the bone flu that created the Rust Warriors is cured. It's not revealed how. Does it simply vanish? Do the victims have to be healed? What about the limbs/parts that were crystallized? Do they heal entirely?
I was confused by the Prime Master's hiding his survival. Did he intend to spend the rest of his life hiding in the healer's home?
Kat's last scene was also a disappointment. Yes, we finally got a decent fight scene, but to leave the book with her bleeding profusely and perhaps dying was annoying after all the effort the author put into giving others a happy ending.
The final reveal of Thaiss's brother's name did nothing for me. If anything, I found it kind of irritating that so much effort was made to tie up all the smaller plot lines and then this major threat was simply dropped at the end of the book. Tom didn't seem to upset that the city's enemy was now potentially in command of it. Even Thomas's appointment didn't make sense to me. Surely at least one other more experienced councilor survived. Why would they appoint the youngest member, the one who only had a few month's experience as a councilor to be their new Prime Master? And why is it more likely for Thiass's brother, Thomas, to have taken over someone with the same name? Are his powers really that limited?
What a disappointing end to an otherwise fun series.