Cons: climax felt rushed, Adam’s motivations at the end were puzzling
Picking up a few months after the events of The Knife Sworn, things are not well in the capital of Cerana. With General Arigu missing Sarmin doesn’t have the full confidence of his army; the High Priest of Herzu is pressuring him to make sacrifices to appease the Gods; Sarmin’s brother is still missing; Mogyrk rebels are loose in the city, setting fires and killing guards; and the Storm, a vast emptiness that swallows all in its path, is almost at the city gates.
Sarmin is forced to make difficult choices to maintain his authority while dealing with numerous threats from both within and without his Empire. A surviver of a Mogyrk pattern attack is kidnapped by Austere Adam because he’s able to read the symbols used in pattern magic. The mages find a crack growing on one of the Tower’s walls. And the Yrkmir army marches on Nooria.
As the conclusion to the Tower and Knife trilogy this book has a lot to accomplish. There are so many things going on and numerous view points to see the action from. Mazarkis does a fantastic job of keeping a coherent narrative, focusing on the essentials while ensuring a feeling of the scale of the Empire and the wide ranging consequences of everyone’s decisions. Each of the major players felt like a complete individual with their own motivations for their actions.
There’s a huge amount of building up to the climax, and the climax as a consequence felt rushed. Indeed, I wondered at one point, if maybe there was a 4th book to the series, as it didn’t seem possible to wrap everything up in time. But Mazarkis did manage to deal with all the major plot threads, and in a satisfying way.
Having said that, I found Austere Adam’s motivations in the final few chapters of the book somewhat puzzling. I’ll deal with this below in the spoilers section.
There were some minor things that irritated me about the book, the occasional unnecessary repetition, characters doing something odd in one scene, but on the whole I loved this series and highly recommend it.
I normally try not to be too spoilery in my spoiler section but be warned, I’m being very explicit here about what happens in the final few chapters, so if you don’t want to have the ending ruined, stop reading here.
These were some comments/questions I had, mostly about the ending.
If Sarmin’s closing the rift in Beyon’s tomb caused him to lose his magic and he’s more powerful than the other pattern mages, how was Didryk able to close the much larger Storm without any adverse effects (and very little effort)?
I can understand why Adam joined Sarmin in attacking the first Austere - the Austere was killing people rather than converting them the way Adam preferred - but I’m confused as to why he’d aid the attack on Mogyrk. Yes, the Scar is growing and will eventually destroy the world, but Adam firmly believes that this is meant to happen. He mentions several times that the end is coming due to his god and he is entirely ok with that so long as his enemies convert and enter the light beforehand (or not, as they choose). So why would he help Sarmin kill his god? This isn’t properly explained.
I LOVED how Sarmin finally deals with Dinar. I suspected he’d have to do something dramatic but even so I didn’t see that coming.
I wouldn’t have minded a slightly longer denouement as Sarmin has a lot of work to do to rebuild his kingdom, especially if he wants to abolish slavery. And poor Mesema doesn’t realize that the slaves she tried so hard to find were all slaughtered after they entered the palace.
Still, the best stories leave you wanting more.