I’m glad I waited until I finished the series to write this review because compared to Fifth Season, this paled in comparison. Losing the shifting time perspectives and worldbuilding made this kind of inherently a lesser novel. But she brought it home in Stone Sky, and made the reading of the book better in comparison.
Do not get me wrong – this was still a great book in and of itself. The “lesser” manifested mostly in my own head: I was concerned through the first half or so that I wasn’t as thrilled as soon as I was in the last book. But there were times, like Nassun meeting Schaffa, or the reveal that Essun broke her daughter’s hand, where I gasped out loud.
In a series like this, where so much of the plot is pieces moving around a board, the first book has the opportunity to establish the pieces and give the history of how they got there, and the last book has the advantage of making the final moves, or flipping the board, or changing the game. (The latter could happen in the second book too, but part of what makes this series great is using standard-ish sci-fi/fantasy tropes and subverting it as often as possible, so following the usual template makes the most sense.) That leaves the middle to move the pieces around. It’s less exciting.
All that means is that – like the greats, to which this series is equal to if not surpassing – the series had to be considered as one part of a really long book released in serial. So, since I’d give the whole series 5 stars, that’s what this one deserves too.