The last of the Inda series. Years ago, Inda was exiled from his homeland and made a new life for himself as the infamous pirate Elgar the Fox. But when he heard of his former home's invasion by the Venn, he returned. The Venn were turned back, but not for long. They, and their mind-controlled king, are going a'viking once more. And once again, only Inda can stop them.
I feel conflicted about this book. On the one hand, Smith continues to split up her narrative far more than she needs to. Constantly switching from one person to the next stalls the narrative tension. On the other, it's a gutsy move to spend more than half of the final volume of a series on the POVs of the main characters' enemies. And Smith has more than enough tension to go around: unrequited love, mind control, magicians double-crossing each other constantly, internecine court drama, pirate battles, training a new generation, ambushes, affairs, reinforcing the infrastructure of a kingdom, breaking down gender barriers, naval battles...There's no derth of plot. Astoundingly, there's still plenty of characterization, of both old characters and new. Inda is more damaged and oblivious than in previous volumes, which annoyed me but felt believable, given what he's gone through. And the new characters are fantastic: I particularly loved the viking captain's hawk-nosed wife.
Smith showcases both the uses and the limits of diplomacy. Her battle scenes are chaotic but understandable. The domestic lives she imagined for her characters helps keep the narrative grounded and believable. And the world building is just top notch.
I think these books would reward rereading--Smith has so much story to tell that I'm sure I missed out on plot points, moments of characterization, and world-building as I raced through. I'm glad I read this series; I just wish there was more!
ETA: These books really deserve at least 4 stars for their depth and complexity, and all the thought that was put into the characters and their world. But I generally only give 4 stars to books that I enjoyed in a very particular, id-satisfying way. So although they're far more interesting than the vast majority of fantasy, I just don't feel right bumping the rating up. But I want to make it very clear that I whole-heartedly recommend these books to anyone interested in a novel take on fantasy.