My joint review of the previous books in the series are here.
Plot summary: In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch. As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies—including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.
To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable—she gave herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy—and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign, imprisoned in Mortmesne.
Now, as the suspenseful endgame begins, the fate of Queen Kelsea—and the Tearling itself—will finally be revealed.
To summarise this entire review into one sentence - it just wasn't as good and the ending sucked.
Whilst I enjoyed this book for the most part, there's no getting around that it just felt flatter than the first two books, which I really enjoyed. Previously, the most impressive aspect of this series had been the characterisation. There were so many fascinating minor characters - Father Tyler, Aisa, Andalie, Brenna, the Mace - each with their own personalities and subplots, and they were an absolute joy to read about.
Unfortunately, as this book spends more time following the past than ever before, these characters barely get a look in. This time we're in the head of Katie, a young lady who lived in Jonathan Tear's New London, immediately post-Crossing (I kept picturing her as Katie from College Humor). It's quite interesting and it fit the tone of the story much better than when we were following Lily in the last book. Unfortunately, as previously, I'm less interested in the past and the almost unnecessary overarching plot, especially when it means that the really interesting characters get little airtime.
When they do show (which is rare), they've lost their sparkle. The Red Queen has changed completely and serves very little purpose, and the Mace seems a little bit wet behind the ears. There seemed to be a lot more milling around than previously, which is strange for the final book of a series. I wouldn't say I got bored of it exactly, but I certainly wasn't as eager to pick it back up as I had been with the other books.
It's a very... passive book. The huge majority of the narrative takes place in either the distant past or involves a lot of travelling and waiting for things to happen. And there is nothing, nothing, more passive in the history of literature than that ending.
I'm going to be vague to avoid spoilers, but suffice it to say that it wasn't good. I can get on board with endings that just don't go where I want them to, or that don't reach the 'right' conclusion, but this isn't that. It feels like the author built up so many subplots and so much drama, but then got the ending and just pressed the 'eh' button. There is no resolution of anything and it actually renders the whole series redundant. What happened to Father Tyler, Ayla or the Mace? Or anyone?
It's such a ridiculous ending that I sort of feel like there's no point rereading the series at any point because everything you experience is redundant. Why spend so much time building it up only to... well, not bother. Some other reviews have called it brave and unique, but I don't agree. It's lazy.
Sometimes I can dislike an ending without letting it affect my opinion of the rest of the book, and I can't explain without being spoilery, but the nature of this ending means that this is impossible. It's not quite as bad as '... and I woke up and it was all a dream,' but it's close.
If you've read The Fate of the Tearling, I'd love to hear your thoughts on that ending.