I first read this ages ago, and quickly followed it up with the second book, but then didn’t get onto reading the third book. So I felt like I needed to refresh my memory. The first book wasn’t my favourite, and I still think the second is probably stronger, but the idea of a spy necromancer running around fomenting rebellion remains pretty darn cool. The cultures are a little bit… umm. They feel like very obvious analogues. But I give Guy Gavriel Kay a pass for that, so Amanda Downum can have it too — and mostly her mythology hangs together and everything works, so that’s fine.
Issylt is a pretty awesome main character, though her relationship with Kiril still… doesn’t entirely make sense to me, and I don’t feel like I can root for her to actually get what she wants in that regard. He’s older than her, and they probably shouldn’t have been in a relationship at all. Still, there’s something to be said also for her perspective that it’s her decision, and he shouldn’t shelter her from the consequences of it. People do that with women, real and fictional, far too often.
Zhivrin is less appealing as a character, but her arc works well, and her ending has a perfect bittersweetness. I love how it’s foreshadowed, as well. Xinai, well, I feel like she more or less got what was coming to her — I can sympathise to some extent with anger at imperialism and the damage it can do, but I don’t understand fighting back against that at any cost. Particularly not when the cost is your own people.
Both times I’ve read this book, I’ve finished it in almost one sitting, so that’s something else to be said for it. But now, onwards!