In a lot of ways, this is my favorite of the Alanna books. I love seeing Alanna come into her own; I love seeing her gain confidence, throwing herself in the face of impossible odds, and accepting herself as both a woman and a knight. I love, love what this series does with relationships, that Alanna's allowed to date multiple men, that it's okay that some of the relationships don't have long-term potential, and that it hurts when they fall apart anyway. That the relationships are ultimately about her
, not about the men; that it's not about choosing which man she likes best, but which man's goals and lifestyle match those she's already chosen for herself. I wish more modern YA authors would take a page out of Pierce's book, here, because it's one of the only portrayals of a love triangle (quadrangle?) I can stand.
I like all the new secondary characters we meet, too, and Pierce does a great job characterizing them with very little screen time. I want to give it four stars. But I don't think the plot and pacing quite justify them. There's a real choppiness between the first and second half the book, and while the notion of Roger back from the dead provides a chilling villain (and a necessary one, I think, since it allows Alanna to face how far she's grown in a way a new villain wouldn't), there's a lot of unforgivable vagueness around why Thom thought Roger--Roger, of all people!--would be a good target for practicing necromancy and around just what Roger is trying to accomplish. (I suppose the answer to the latter is, "He's insane," but that's never a very satisfying piece of characterization for a villain. I have similar problems with Alex's characterization.)
Still, a satisfying end to the series. And the final scenes make me tear up every time.