|Who is the guy on the cover supposed to be, anyway? I've never been clear on that. Rudi? Ingolf?|
Nevertheless, I'm done with it, so let's have a look:
- The Big Battle! The major battle between the forces of Montival and the Church Universal and Triumphant takes place in this installment. In fact, it runs for about the first two-thirds of the book's duration. It's a decent battle sequence, but Stirling seems to give minute detail of each faction as it waits and psyches itself up for confrontation, then glosses over the actual fighting, a recurring problem in this series.
- New characters. I'm usually not one to appreciate new characters being thrown in this late in a series, but having minor characters like Lioncel and Huon step up to bigger roles makes sense, especially considering the broadening scope of the story, as well as the moderate body count thus far.
- Charming Anachronisms. One of the great things about this series is its examintion of the 'de-volution' of current culture to the 'modern' culture portrayed in the books, as people discard concepts not necessary to their new reality. Also, where else will you have Roman style legionnaires fighting Swiss style armored pikemen?
- Dem Spirit Quests. I mentioned before that one of the big detractors from this series is the italicised segments. These largely consist of visions, flashbacks, spirit quests, what have you. Not my normal favorite part of a story anyway, but throw them in italics and they become nearly unreadable for me. Because there is so much of it in this series, I tend to take a longer time reading it, as I force myself to go back and read these sections. Otherwise I feel like I'm not getting my money's worth. I'd like to say that I get a deeper understanding of the storyline this way, but these sections don't really seem that important, sadly.
- A story in three thirds. Like I mentioned, the first two-thirds of the story are the big battle, and as such are pretty darn fun. The last third however, are politics, back story, and a head trip time travel that Rudi and Matti go on. Some of it seems important, and some of it just seems like it's at the end of this book so that it's not at the beginning of the next one.
- Where's Huon? Think Where's Waldo here. Huon and Lioncel, minor characters from the previous books, take bigger roles before and during the big battle. You start to like and care about these two squire friendss, then after the battle, they're...just...gone? I'm trying to remember if they're even in the book after that point. They might be, but they have receded back to they're super minor importance if so. Kind of a let down.