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In the Ruins by Kate Elliott

In the Ruins - Kate Elliott

This is an okay installment, better than the one before. But it’s only the first half of the final book, which was split in two due to length (a counterintuitive choice; seven is such a prominent number in the mythology of the series that I had a hard time believing this wasn’t the plan all along). As such, it’s incomplete, ending without a climax or the close of any plot arcs. And the structure is strange; we spend a good bit of time with Liath and Sanglant in the first 2/3 of the book, only for them to disappear without fanfare from the final third. Meanwhile Alain pops up only a couple of times.

This book begins just after the cataclysm, and the post-apocalyptic atmosphere is an interesting change (though I am skeptical about the world’s being so suddenly depopulated). It’s as if the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs hit instead during the early Middle Ages. Meanwhile, toward the end of the book we get an Ashioi POV, as they seem poised to play a larger role in the next book – while I’m not sold on that plotline yet, their portrayal all along seems to have been a clever bit of misdirection. Up to this point I’d thought of them as elves, in large part because they were seen as almost mythological beings, but now they clearly seem to be Aztecs, not elvish at all.

For the most part though, this series has gone on too long for me (please keep in mind that I have little patience for long series). The machinations of Hugh and Antonia have just gotten old; once a villain has been thwarted before, continuing to watch them pursue the same goal through new strategies loses its luster for me. Meanwhile, the couple of developments that did start to excite me were quickly diffused.

Constance’s proposal to challenge Sabella was an exciting moment . . . followed up by Sabella’s army retreating the moment Alain stares down a couple of scouts. And then Sanglant’s being forced to choose between Liath and the crown could have been a huge plot development, but then . . . he isn't.

(show spoiler)

And our heroes don’t have a whole lot to do, which draws attention to the wrong things, like Liath’s wildly fluctuating social skills – one minute her cluelessness seems explicable only by reference to the autism spectrum, the next she comes up with some astute solution – and scenes of “political maneuvering.” I always hate these in fantasy, because they just boil down to the author comparing the imperturbability of everyone present. In fairness, this is in no way unique to Elliott, who has fewer such scenes than most epic fantasy authors whose books include power struggles among the nobility.

Overall, a decent read, but a seven-book series is too long to hold my interest, even when the major conflicts change from book to book. I’m ready for it to be over.