After two books away, it's a relief to have Kaylin back in Elantra. And yet for all that the series has returned to the physical geography of its core, it feels like the emotional geography is still off-center. Kaylin is in Elantra, but her interactions remain primarily with those who traveled to (or came from) the West March. There's very little of the Hawks here, or even of Sanabalis or Tiamaris. And while I do have a deep fondness for the Barrani children, who throw a unique wrench into the works of, well, pretty much everything, I miss having Kaylin's life grounded in the mundane.
For me, that was always the core of the series: a young woman who just wants to Do Her Job, but keeps getting caught up in magical happenings. But at this point her career as a Hawk is window dressing; she spends about a page patrolling the streets and several hundred pages throwing magical words around to fight world-destroying evil. Even the book's central plot point (Kaylin's search for housing), which _should_ be safely mundane, quickly turns mystical. I miss the chiaroscuro effect that came from blending the two worlds. All magic, all the time is blinding--and the more time the books spend in amorphous realms of metaphor, the less I care about the outcome of any of the battles.
Still: things do seem to be progressing. If we're spending more time enmeshed in magic, Kaylin is at least finally coming to _understand_ some of what she bears on her skin. And the ending is a pay-off moment that's been books in the making, and leaves me willing to continue on Kaylin's next adventure.