As with the previous books, the fourth directly follows the third. Defense of Abythos ended up being a total failure due to all the creatures Tharok had enslaved and sent the humans scattered from the battlefield.
Those who survived and are capable of leading the remains are trying to create a working strategy to stop the kragh hordes yet find themselves unable to choose something they would all agree on and they’d all believe to work.
Meanwhile, Audsley is getting deeper into the secrets of the Fujiwara, secrets that are often gruesome. His path will take some twists as well, maybe more than the others.
Now, a bit more detail about the individual plotlines.
Tharok’s conquest seems unstoppable at first, yet the warlord is surprised by something he’d not expect: the White Gate. Its power knocks him out temporarily and one of the others takes the mantle of a warlord – as well as the circlet and weapon – from him, leaving him to create a plan to get them back without their help, something he eventually succeeds in doing. Then, he launches his most devastating attack on the humans who prepared their last defense. It does not go as well as he thought until he uses something that no one could be prepared for.
Tiron and the young nobles following him are one of the few that left Abythos by ground instead of portals and are moving, seemingly without a destination, through the land. That is until they encounter a group of kragh that separated from the main army. They eventually join forces with Nok and Shaya who were sent to warn and help the few remaining shamans that Tharok sent away so the medusa can’t get a hold of them.
This journey shows the contrast between Tirn’s harsh realism and the ideals of the nobles and even Tiron is shown that his approach might not be the best one – that a dream or hope can be a goal to go for, despite all the losses they face. With the help of the uncorrupted kragh, they eventually help the final battle in a way no one could expect.
Iskra does not get that much action. Instead, she’s mostly seen trying to keep things together, often being against the plan the Ascendant suggests – only to be shown that they both made mistakes.
Asho and Kethe
The two finally meet again, only to start quite cold as Kethe is still struggling with her new role as a virtue – only to be the last one standing. Both she and Asho are again forced to fight to the limits of their abilities and not always side-by-side as they defend different places against Tharok’s forces. The situation between them changes when Asho saves Kethe and they eventually fight the final battle together.
Also, Elom appears again and shows his skill in fixing things, especially fixing massive things that make massive damage.
This was probably the most interesting part of the book. Audsley, once hungry for knowledge, is now struggling with his inner demons as he delves into the dark secrets of the Fujiwara. With Zephyr, they plan to eliminate their leader and while creating the plan works well, it all goes down horribly. Audsley is given more facts than he’d like – facts that are too hard to swallow for him, a revelation about the Ascension’s dark background and how the faith he believed so much was nothing but a scheme built on a desire for vengeance.
It eventually goes down horribly and even the fact that his firecat Aedelbert finally returns or that he is finally rid of his demons are just a small consolation in what turns to be much worse than the kragh, the medusa, or the massive worms she summoned.
Going 5% up compared to the previous two books.
A great part of me hoped that Asho and Kethe would finally rid Tharok of his head and get done with the kragh for all they caused. How the Fujiwara substory went down was something I did not really expect and if there’s something I am really curious to see in the final book, it’s what will happen with the Ascendant empire. As the characters were considering destruction or reformation, the situation changed many times. Now that all the dark background was revealed and everything is going down even worse than expected, the change will be most likely in some other direction.
What I missed compared to the first three books was saying at the beginning of a chapter from whose PoV the chapter is told. Sometimes it was a good idea for where to end the day’s reading.