The First Lord of Alera does not get any younger (I am stating obvious, am I not?) He also does not have any male heir - or female for that matter. No wonder that everybody and their brother want his job, yesterday. Several high-ranking people actually have the means to get it.
To neutralize the danger from the most likely contender (High Lord Kalare), The First Lord forces him to act early hoping his lack of preparation would allow for an easy victory. He severely underestimated Kalare's strength and ambition. For the third time (fourth if you count the past event which gets mentioned regularly) the realm is in mortal danger. For the third time the regulars of the series have to face overwhelming odds in attempt to salvage an unwinnable situation.
For every single book of the series I read so far I was sure I would rate it with 3 stars and every one of them ended up with 4, and this time is not an exception. The beginning was fairly boring and I did not expect much from the way the events began. The conflict seemed on the much lesser scale than those of the previous installments. Tavi is still Mary Sue - or Gary Stu in his case - who can do no wrong and can overcome all challenges. I was not impressed with what Isana was doing through the whole book.
Somewhere as the plot moved along the stakes became huge, the pace picked up and the novel became the expected - at this point - equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie with lots of explosions, big fights, last minute escapes, and other well-known attributes. This means mindless entertainment at (almost) its best.
As an icing on the cake we finally get to see some interesting back history of Isana and Tavi. The big plot twist at the end typical for the series is present as well, but this time I was able to predict it (yay for me!)
I already mentioned 4 stars as the rating. Now that I am half-done with the series it is fairly safe to say I will finish it even if all of the remaining books are abysmal. They are most probably not.