This book took me a little over six months to read... but to be fair that's mainly because I had just had a baby who was (and is) happily demanding of my time. I'm now, however, finding more time to read and I plowed through the last few chapters.
Epic. I find Beka a really wonderful heroine, I love her sarcastic sense of humor, her playful ribbing of her friends, her loyalty, her dislike of 'upity' nobles, her fear of public speaking that she must overcome. I love the way her character grows through the series.
What I don't like is the way Pierce seems out to make some point with her this character loving sex for the sake of sex. It reads as she's making some social point about woman being liberated enough to enjoy casual sex as men. This bothers me one, because I don't think it fits with Beka's deeply restrained character that takes so long to open up to people and also because I don't think it sends a very good message to young readers who haven't had sex and don't know what a deeply personal and wonderful thing it can be. I know not everyone believes in no sex before marriage and I don't expect everyone to hold that view... but I still feel that this part of Beka's character cheapens sex and the value of her own body. This seems to be a bit of a pattern through her books which saddens me. Women's lib doesn't have to mean making women as free with their bodies as some men seem to be. I watched a movie the other day where a woman was choosing between two men and decided she would have to sleep with both of them to decide.... and this was treated like this was socially an ok thing to do. I don't like this trend.
Ok, rant aside... I like Beka.
All of the other characters are wonderful too. Pierce always creates really character rich, tangible worlds that are exciting to be a part of. I found the journey our faithful crew found themselves on very believable and exciting. It killed me that it dragged on for so long (simply because I wasn't able to read very much very often.)
The ending.... I wouldn't call it a disappointment as such but it was a little predictable. I knew the traitor couldn't have been Farmer because Pierce wasn't going to send the 'all men are dogs' message by having the first man that treats Beka like an equal come along and be a sociopath. And if the traitor was Sabine the Beka would have found the opportunity to talk to Tunstal about it (like she said she would and didn't) and he would have thought it was Farmer and then been proven wrong and gone all heartbroken and stuff.
So in the end it had to be Tunstal. And I liked that it was him. What I didn't like was the fact that he killed Deagon and the fight he had with Beka. From the character that was built of Tunstal and the relationship he had with Beka I just didn't find it believable that he would go to those lengths. Perhaps if Pierce had done a little more to show his character changing, hardening perhaps from years of seeing death and betrayal. He has had such good influences in his life though, and Sabine was so honorable I find it hard to think that he would make such a strong change.
In some books these flaws would have been substantial, but not here. The language and characters and wonderful gripping action scenes and romance and nice warm fuzzies at the end make it all in all a wonderful completion to a great trilogy. I would heartily recommend it older, more discerning readers. If giving to younger girls to read, it's worth reading along with them so you can talk about the value that's placed on sex etc..