Final installment of Morgan's bleak fantasy/far-future science-fiction trilogy (The Cold Commands, 2011, etc.).
Homosexuality is anathema in the world where swordsman Ringil Eskiath, a weary, gay, middle-aged war hero, lives and fights. With his friends Archeth, last of the immortal Kiriath race, and Egar the Dragonbane, he sets off to find the Illwrack Changeling, supposedly the evil-sorcerer scion of a powerful race, the dwenda or Aldrain, that once ruled the world. However, the instructions given by Anasharal the Helmsman, a grouchy and supercilious Kiriath robot, are irritatingly imprecise. If the rumors about the Changeling and the return of the dwenda are correct, Ringil will need to develop his understanding and control of the ikinri ‘ska, a demonic magic powered by otherworldly glyphs. Even worse, the dwenda possess an irresistible weapon, the Talons of the Sun—though nobody knows what it might consist of. He soon becomes separated from Archeth and Egan, who locate a Warhelm, an ancient Kiriath combat installation that seems to have had much of its programming and capabilities purposefully damaged—by Archeth’s father. This time, Morgan’s ultraviolent narrative, while still crackling with intensity and expletives, bloats up into doorstopper territory, with a corresponding loss of focus. Still, for the most part the prose remains atmospheric and highly textured, complete with subtexts and sexual interludes. Add on a conclusion that contrives to be both enigmatic and less than fully satisfying, and maybe doesn’t even add up—yet such is the quality of Morgan’s vision, and few readers will feel short-changed or disappointed.
So, the flab and the contrivances are minor flaws in a finale that displays all the purposefully hard edges and grim magnificence that made the first two volumes stand out.