The small kingdom of Kavelin barely survived being completely slaughtered by the Dread Empire with its magic, but the price for victory might be just too high. A lot of good leaders who supported the King are dead; the new people have to replace them, some of them are not ready, some have hidden agendas. Speaking of which, now that the external thread is eliminated the internal one rises its ugly head from several different directions. The King, while being an excellent general is not ready to face the backstabbing from the people closest to him.
The first thing of notice here is that approximately two thirds of the book is spent on retelling exactly the same events which happened in the last book, but from the point of view of people on the western side of Kavelin/Shinsan border (we already saw the eastern POV). Glen Cook tried the same approach in his famous Black Company series with Bleak Seasons retelling the story already told from another point of view. It did not work quite well in that case: Bleak Seasons is probably the weakest of the Book of the South. I am happy to say that this time he managed to pull it off: there was never a boring moment in this book; even though I knew what would happen, I finally saw why western people reacted to the events the way they reacted, at the same time I knew the reasons for eastern people's reaction even though they were not shown here.
This book was the point where Glen Cook stopped writing the series because of the lack of publisher's interest in them. It took him 24 years to write the conclusion. Considering the fact that this book ended in a huge cliffhanger, I can only imagine the frustration of people who read this book at the time it was published (1988). I am happy I am not one of them.
This book which cost me some sleep time deserves 4 very solid stars. As I mentioned before, I am really glad that I have the last book on my hands: I cannot wait to start reading it.
This review is a copy/paste of my BookLikes one: http://gene.booklikes.com/post/789286/the-series-gets-better-and-better