Collapsing in a tangled heap of dangling subplots and unlikely resolutions, this trilogy closer sends a group of superpowered Victorian-era orphans on one last venture to a magic land within a bubble of “light enriched zenna molecules” crafted by space aliens.
The orphans pass easily back and forth through a thorn hedge that was previously nearly impenetrable and multiple self-contained, page-count–padding set pieces. They contrive to rescue a family of chimps as well as three kidnapped nonhumans from a circus and then to save the blue-skinned Waterlanders, who are surprised when the oversized spiders they had been wantonly killing launch reprisal attacks. The discovery of a talking (and talkative) library of alien superscience then leads to a climactic battle with the bad-guy Robes in which the Waterlander women dress as men in order to be mistaken for real warriors. This is followed by several convenient revelations and the immediate reconciliation of the land’s four warring human and humanoid races (the numerous nonhumanoids just drop out of sight).
A trilogy already largely composed of off-the-shelf elements rushes to an end amid a welter of muddled plotting, meaningless technobabble and astronomical gaps in logic. (Fantasy. 10-12)