I really enjoyed this epic fantasy series. It had a detailed world with multiple cultures, wars, politics, heroes, and villains. There’s a little bit of magic, but it’s pretty subtle and didn’t always feel like magic. Unlike some epic fantasy, this series didn’t have a huge cast of characters. Each book had four to five main point-of-view characters with several supporting characters, and it was always easy to keep everybody straight. I liked some of the main characters and disliked others, but all of them were interesting to read about. I thought a couple of the supporting characters were at least as memorable and enjoyable as some of the main characters.
The books don’t tell individually complete stories. Reading this series was sort of like reading one long, 2500-page story. The entire first book was a slow build-up to the beginning of the main plot. It definitely wasn’t boring, but it was heavily character-oriented and it kind of meandered around to build the foundation needed to appreciate the rest of the story. There was nothing even approaching a “resolution” at the end of the first book because we’d barely scratched the surface of learning about the thing that had to be resolved. The prologue of the first book did do a great job of setting the stage for the main plot, though, so I felt from the beginning like I knew what the story was about and had a general idea of where things were headed.
Each of the subsequent books revealed more and more layers, and usually ended with the sense that progress was being made. This final book was really hard to put down because by this point we were clearly working toward the resolution of the main plot. I was on the edge of my seat (sometimes literally!), eager to see how everything would work out. I was mostly satisfied with the ending. While not everything turned out well for everybody, the ending left me with a positive feeling as opposed to the sad or bittersweet feeling that so many other books seem to end with. There were some loose threads left at the end, including one major one, but I had such mixed feelings about how I wanted that thread to be resolved that I almost didn’t mind the fact that it wasn’t resolved. There were some things that I wish had been explained more fully, though.
I don’t think this series would convert anybody who isn’t already a fan of epic fantasy, but I do think it’s a satisfying series for people who are already fans of the subgenre. To anybody who liked this series, I would also recommend this author’s earlier epic fantasy series, the Long Price Quartet. I thought his earlier series was more unique, whereas this one is a bit more traditional, but I think they were both equally enjoyable.
I have a lot of random thoughts that are full of spoilers for the entire series. As per my usual style, I’m going to list them within spoiler tags: