Note: This book picks up exactly where book 3 ends, therefore everything in the review is a spoiler, including the synopsis. I highly recommend the Demon Cycle series, because while there are some grimdark elements (rape, murder, etc) it also has something a lot of grimdark fantasies lack: a sense of hope. In this way it reminds me of books by the authors I grew up reading (Brooks, Eddings, etc.), books that are now classics of the genre. Here's my review of book 1, The Warded Man (The Painted Man in the UK) if you've not read the previous books.
Cons: have to wait for the next book
Both Arlen and Jardir disappear after their fall from the cliff, putting Inevera in a difficult position to keep her sons alive and off the Skull Throne, while maintaining the unity of the clans that she and Jardir fought so hard for. Leesha and her companions return to the Hollow where she agonizes over what to do about her coming child, her growing love for Count Thamos, and organizing the gatherers. The Hollow leaders are soon called to Angiers by the royal family. Leesha, to help cure the Duke’s infertility; Gared, to find a wife; and Rojer, to introduce his Krasian wives to the court. Meanwhile, Arlen has a dangerous plan in mind.
Get ready for deep intrigues and a lot of politics. This book is fast paced and a quick read, despite its near 700 pages (which includes the ever helpful Krasian dictionary at the end).
The characters remain complex, with tough decisions to make and lots of compromises between how they want the world to become versus dealing with how it actually is. I loved the scenes from Ashia’s point of view, getting to know her and the other sharum’ting (female warriors). Their training was interesting, as was the family politics she was thrown into with regards to her marriage. I felt both admiration for her and pity for her situation. Though I started to find Leesha irritating in book 3, here she’s back to the woman I admired in books 1 and 2, only with more responsibilities and harder choices to make. I love Inevera as a character, even though she can be quite horrible at times. This book made me again appreciate her intelligence and drive while pitying her when things start to spiral out of control. Abban’s manipulation of power made him less sympathetic in this book, but his storyline remains intriguing. The interplay between Rojer and his wives is so interesting, especially given their various abilities.
Unlike book 3, this one doesn’t end with a cliffhanger, but it will have you cursing the fact that book 5 isn’t out yet. The last hundred pages or so really ramps up the action as all of the political maneuvering comes to fruition in unexpected ways. This series continues to get better and I can’t wait to read what’s going to happen next.
*** SPOILER SECTION ***
SERIOUSLY, I’LL BE MENTIONING SOME MAJOR SPOILERIFIC THINGS, SO IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK YET, DON’T READ THIS
THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO TURN BACK
ALRIGHT, YOU ASKED FOR IT
The day after I finished the book I thought of something that’s potentially a plot hole. After the Milnese use their fire weapons (ie guns) so successfully to defeat the Krasians I was left wondering why Lord Sament of Miln and his 50 soldiers, weren’t equipped with them as well. It’s possible that the guns were supposed to be part of the leverage of the marriage contract between the Duke and Lorain, and were therefore kept under lock and key until that marriage took place. But had I been one of Sament’s men, I’d have been pissed knowing our side was about to die because the higher ups wanted to keep the guns secret and/or used for political leverage. Then again, given the forces they faced, 50 men with guns may not have turned the battle, so logistically it probably was a smart idea to keep them hidden until a more strategic time.
I REALLY wanted to comment in my review about how Peter V. Brett George R. R. Martined the ending of this book. Those last 100 pages where so many people dropped dead was such a surprise to read. But I didn’t want to ruin that for others.