After two books of setting up factions and mysteries, Shadowborn had a lot of loose ends to tie off. Unfortunately, I found its knot-work less than satisfying.
The good guys spend rather a lot of time puzzling over the bad guys' capricious timing and oddly varied level of attacks, concluding "there must be some reason for this we don't understand." So I . . . expected there to be
a reason for it that we didn't understand (yet). And there is, somewhat, if you squint and fanwank a little, but a lot of it fundamentally comes down to, "well, they're insane." This is not interesting character motivation.
Maybe the books are intended as some kind of meta-commentary on the fantasy genre and its obsession with Evil Overlords (an obsession that I think ended a decade or more ago)? But I don't think even that works. Now, if the Shadowborn had sparked the powderkeg between the Lightborn and Darkborn as some sort of accidental side effect of their own internal conflicts, and ultimately didn't care about the Lightborn or Darkborn at all--that would have been interesting, both as plotting and as commentary.
It's particularly frustrating because there's so many opposing goals within the Lightborn and the Darkborn, so many alliances being made and broken, that I don't really understand why the books needed the Shadowborn at all. There were plenty of other opportunities for conflict--human conflict, understandable conflict--that could have driven the plot.
But I was always reading these books for the characters, not for the plot. And in that respect . . . in that respect, this book exceeded my expectations and made me squee. I read lots of books with love triangles. It's hard to find YA fantasy without them these days. I know how they go: eventually, the girl picks one of them--if one of the guys doesn't die off first. And so when I came out of the first book loving Balthasar/Telmaine/Ishmael as an OT3, it was with the belief that this was about as likely to show up on-screen as Kirk/Spock. I braced myself for the inevitable end.
And then. And then.
"'And what about when we find Ishmael?' she flung back at him. 'What if he
still loves me?'
'I will take you on any
terms,' Balthasar said, softly."
And then they go off searching together. And they reunite with Ishmael. And the book fades to black. And this is me, going YES! YES! YES!
Ahem. Oh, yes, and then there's Floria. How many books do I read in which my fannish OT3 becomes in canon not a pairing but an OT4? Not many. Not many at all.
So, in summary: not a perfect book by any means, but I am willing to forgive a lot in something that hits my personal narrative kinks so well.