I've been looking forward to and somewhat dreading the arrival of Johanssen's final book in equal measure. Excited, because there were so many questions to be answered and I couldn't wait to read what Johanssen did with them. Dreaded, because the natural deadlines of writers of trilogies can sometimes make the ending underwhelming (see Allegiant - or don't).
Thankfully, for me at least, this book does not disappoint in any way.
So, where did we leave off? Kelsea, Queen of the Tearling, is now a prisoner of the Red Queen of Mortmesne, having driven a bargain for the Red Queen to retreat and leave the Tearling alone.
The Mace, Head of the Queen's Guard, has been left as Regent in Kelsea's place.
And the Fetch and Row Finn are battling as much against each other as they are for their vision, centuries old now, of what the Tearling should be.
It's a lot to sort out. Meanwhile, Kelsea is still going through her fugues, travelling back to the past, to the time of William Tear, to see if answers to the present can be found there.
The story is well plotted, equal time given to past and present, and sometimes the answers just dangling out of reach before moving on to the next POV. It's the kind of book that I carried around with me while doing chores, cooking dinner, making a cup of tea, and staying up well into the night. It is the best fantasy/dystopian trilogies I've read since the Hunger Games, and as a trilogy overall I think it's stronger. I would recommend for readers of fantasy and dystopian fiction.
There is one issue, however, which I can't discuss too much without giving away the ending. There is a deus ex machina of sorts, and I can see how the ending would be divisive.
On a more current affairs note, the undercurrent all the way through is what kind of governing is best for a population? Socialism, meritocracy, or straight authoritarianism? All are explored throughout the trilogy, none left without criticism. The resolution of the book is as much about how we should govern and lessons learned from the past as it is about Kelsea's end point.