An uneasy peace suddenly came to the lands torn by non-stop conflicts. All the sides cannot continue fighting, or start new wars: some lack resources, some lack leadership, some just realized that peace is much more profitable. The last surviving characters trying to pull together their lives, or empires. Speaking about which, there were quite a few survivors by the last book: I did not expect that many considering that Glen Cook is never shy about killing off major players in his works. People in charge on all sides of conflict began seeing the main source of practically all their problems and they are suddenly free to try taking care of it once and for all.
It took Glen Cook 25 year to write this book. Initially the publisher was not interested in what was planned a final trilogy, later somebody stole the manuscript of the first book of it. The publisher was finally found: much later, but now Glen Cook had to squeeze the trilogy into one book which - while approximately 1.5 times bigger than an average book of the series - is still fairly small. I already mentioned the great number of characters who lived up to this point; these characters have to act individually most of the time which led to frequent POV changes which made for somewhat chaotic plot development.
My much bigger complaint was about the ending. I consider the end of The Black Company series to be one of the best in fantasy, so I had really high expectations; I was disappointed. The end was acceptable, but nowhere close to the standards set by the author himself.
Despite my two complaints above (POV switching and somewhat underwhelming ending) it is still a good book which ties off all tangled plot-lines which deserves 3.5 stars
.My thoughts about the whole series.
Is the series worth reading? Yes, especially if you like The Black Company; Dread Empire series can be considered to be a father of the most famous author's series. It is easy to see characters that gave birth to Croaker, the Lady, and Goblin/One Eye rivalry. Steven Erikson copied one of the characters wholesale in his Malazan saga (Mocker/Kruppe). The first book is fairly bad and the last can be better, so beware.
If you decide to read the series, forget its order. My suggestion would be the following one: 1, 4, 5, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8. The first book is bad no matter how you look at it, so get it out of the way ASAP. Books 4 and 5 are prequels which must be read before books 2 and 3 because in this case the goals of the major players in the series would be much clearer. Book 7 picks up right where book 3 leaves; if you read it in series' order it is really hard to remember what exactly happened after a long time. If you read book 1 after 4 and 5 (this is chronological order), you will spoil the only surprise it contain - and this book is bad enough even with it.
My final notes: give this series a try; Cook's signature double-crossings and a lot of back-stabbings are here: the enemies become friends and close friends become enemies frequently and unexpectedly.
This review is a copy/paste of my BookLikes one: http://gene.booklikes.com/post/811401/a-somewhat-undewhelming-but-still-good-conclusion