This book has more problems with its predecessors. Those problems are so frequently spread throughout the book (or even an inherent part of its plot) that I was already planning a 3-star review to show how it was so much more diminished than its fore-bearers.
And then I caught myself staying up way too late to keep reading it.
And then I caught myself doing it again the next night.
And whoa. How can I criticize that? Well, okay. I’m me. I can criticize most things. And this book does suffer a bit in comparison to the other two.
There’s way too much sex in this book: instead of merely hinting at the more delicious pleasures, it turns almost pornographic at points. And it’s too often. Where the other books inserted* sex naturally as part of being human (or divine), this one turns to it so often that it starts to feel more like the fanfics of an out-of-control adolescent.
It’s probably a matter of taste more than anything, and my tastes have always turned away from such things when they interrupt the plot. There’s nothing wrong with that sort of thing, but it’s just not my cup of tea to find so much of this in an otherwise-excellent fantasy novel.
The larger issue comes from the story being told from Sieh’s viewpoint. The other stories were told from the viewpoints of mortals trying to cope with the divine. This one told the story of a divine trying to come to grips with the mortal world. It was hard for me to empathize with Sieh, as he kept telling us over and over again how much greater he was than anything I’ve experienced. In that context, his character flaws become egregious since they’re all on-purpose in one way or another. He used to be god after all. He could have done better. Ultimately, I found it hard to sympathize with him or care about him and I can’t help but wonder how it would have been told from Dekarta’s point of view.
The ending was disappointing, but I think the reason of its disappointment tells how successful both the ending and the entire trilogy have been. For three books, Jemisin has made me feel the divine wonder of the Three. And while the world may not have been a better place with their presence and intervention, it was made so much richer because of it. I found their withdrawal to be utterly depressing because it means the world is going to become a drab and colorless place in contrast to what it was.
Though, perhaps the average lifespan will go up. So it’s probably an improvement for the characters who live there. But for this outsider? It’s incredibly sad.
And that sadness is why I would whole-heartedly endorse this trilogy. It’s a masterwork of fantasy without elves or wizards. The rich cosmology, depth of feeling, complex characters, and page-turning plots is unmatched in my library.