This novel is a fitting conclusion to the Song of the Lioness series. It brings the overall series together in a way I didn’t expect, even with hints in the previous two books, and offers a full tale of its own. Alanna learns more about herself in this one and discovers both what she needs and wants out of her future. While true of the whole series, this book more than any other of them is her coming of age story. I’m being vague here to avoid spoilers, but as a conclusion, the story offers tears and joy, along with tension and a desperate battle or three as we’ve come to expect.
The book is split in two with a strong bridging story taking up the first half. This is Alanna’s adventure, one she spends making new friends and pushing herself to the limit. The tale also serves to distance and distract her and the reader from what’s happening back in Tortall. Their lines of communication are stretched past even the limits of the magical ones, isolating Alanna and Coram. Still, she expects nothing much will change, so doesn’t get worried until instinct demands her return.
The second part of the book begins there, with much having changed and little for the better. Her new friends stand firm at her side, including Liam Ironarm, the Dragon of Shang, who has been teaching her some of his discipline while they travel. They return to find Tortall in turmoil and Jonathan in need of their support.
The stakes are higher and have a broad effect in the second part, though the personal ones of the first are classic Alanna. I found both arcs satisfying and the characters compelling if not always likable. It speaks to the series’ strength how I recognized characters I hadn’t seen since the first book which I read several years ago. The newly introduced characters are just as strong, though, with their own contradictions that make them feel real.
I talk about the book as if it’s separated into two, but there was no indication, something I found jarring. In fact, there are three stages. The first focuses on Alanna, the second catches the reader up on the doings back in the capital, and the third is when Alanna and her new friends return. This ability to switch between groups is a strength of the narrative style, but I still would have preferred some warning. I missed knowing what was happening to the first group while they traveled and didn’t know when they’d be reintroduced.
Ultimately, though, the book brings everything back together in a heart-stopping, powerful end with a real cost I wasn’t expecting and yet hope for the future. I’m glad I started on this path and am sorry to see the series end. Luckily, there are more Tortall novels waiting for me.