The book nicely rounds out this excellent series. Spoilers ahead.
This series really emphasizes that everyone thinks that they are doing what is best for the world. Aarkein Devaed and the Venerate believed that releasing “El” is the way to grant people freedom of choice and undo the harms of the past. Nethgalla believes that she is the best partner for Tal. The Hunters believed that The Gifted were abominations against their Gods. You see most of the “evil” people’s perspectives more fully than the average tale, and irreconcilable philosophical disagreements where both sides may be “right” are often the main source of tension between enemies.
I was wrong. Damian does not change the past or the future – the entire point ends up being that no one can. The reality of the Licanius world is that time travel is real, but everything is immutable (time travel can never change anything no matter how you try). Furthermore, you should live as if you are responsible for your own actions and decisions, but everything is predetermined. This sometimes feels paradoxical, and determinism is not something that I think too deeply about in my own life, but I do feel empowered and bolstered when characters I love overcome their shortcomings by taking full responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
The survival and success of the three original friends, Davian, Wirr, and Asha, is really cathartic. Their relationships are kind, loving, and full of mutual respect. They watch each other grow and save each others lives. A real Ron/Harry/Hermione situation.
The battle scenes were really sick in this one. Asha becomes an ultra powerful beast with the combined power of the Lyth and unleashes awesomeness. The idea of a war general who has perfect remote control of his troops – Wirr with his Oathstone – is a cool one, and almost made some battles feel like video games. The banes, the Venerate, and Nethgalla were great enemies/frenemies, and I found myself visually picturing scenes from Lord of the Rings often during fight scenes.
It was frustrating that Aelric, Dezia, Metaniel, and Cyr’s storyline is so glossed over – the author’s note at the end promises another book about them, but no release date is set for that yet AFAIK. We want more, Islington! :)
At first I was a bit annoyed by Davian’s Zvaelar storyline. He’s brought away from his friends and allies into this nightmare land where he’s forced to toil and strengthen himself, similar to Kaladin and the Bridgemen in The Stormlight Archive, but it’s the END of the series and he’s already pretty damn powerful. But the resolution here, with Raeleth’s wisdom, Niha’s fierceness, and them actually being his parents (!!), was very satisfying and strangely not weird. I wish that I could have met my parents when we were all the same age and fought alongside them against time-controlling 10ft mutant freaks. I just know that at some point Davian is going to put it all together and realize that Niha is his mom and freak out – probably when she comes to talk to Ash later.
The Caeden arc’s conclusion was beautiful, too. Again, the empowerment that comes with radical personal responsibility reminded me of Dalinar’s arc in Stormlight. He really came through for his friends and himself, and the epilogue where he spoke with Niha, Ell, and finally his past self in the form of Davian was absolutely excellent.