Again, the opening is present day, but this episode is not nearly so interesting as in the first two books. Where is Adair? He's an important character, presumably waiting to be revealed to his grieving wife, so it would be sensible to remind readers of his existence straight away.
After this, the story picks up more or less where it left off in Book Two, and immediately takes off at a rapid pace which never lets up. The plot is actually the best part of the book - everything that happens follows logically, with some nice twists and turns, lots of exciting encounters and a neat and tidy resolution. The final battle for Orud is rather well thought out, bringing together Kael's talents, Saba's knowledge, Maeryn's resistence fighters and Dacien's army quite neatly, although Dacien is an improbably clever military commander and Kael is simply unstoppable (but then this is fantasy). Only Aelia remains as useless as ever (unlikely romance notwithstanding). She was a plot point early in Book One, but spent the rest of the story as barely-remembered baggage. The author could easily have made Maeryn a more interesting character by killing off Aelia. The ending is rather implausible, with a setup for a sequel or Book Four.
But despite all the high-speed action, sadly it left me quite uninterested. This is largely because of the author's rather flat writing style, which wipes almost all emotion from his characters. Sometimes he tells us what a character is feeling or that he or she is crying, but it all seems very distant and unengaging, as if he is simply telling the story in a rather perfunctory way. This is a shame, because these are potentially interesting characters involved in dramatic events, but the impact is lost.
The other problem is that the author never bothers to give any descriptions of his long-standing characters, or the places we've seen before. This, too, tends to make them vague and uninteresting. Where he does describe a scene (for instance, the bridges connecting Leoran to the shore), it immediately makes the setting more vivid and memorable. And while he summarises some of the previous books' events, it would have been immeasurably helpful to have a decent reminder of important returning characters, like Soren, Donagh and Coen. Having a little less of the frenetic rushing about by armies and navies, and a little more reflective remembering of Kael's time in training with these people would have brought the whole story alive.
Overall, the poor characterisations and uninvolving writing style are a disappointment, but the quality of the plot raises this to 3 stars. [First written August 2011]