2 September 2014 at 7:45am
I just finished Eye of Winters Fury - the third (and apaprently last) book in the series.
it was an excellent experience. I'd like to review it in sections:
Story & writing
The story here is a good one, not as good as Heart of Fire - which felt deeply personal, but better than Legion of Shadow. While Arran's motivation sometimes feels weak, he's an interesting and well-fleshed-out protagonist. Michael has tried something new in giving the lead character a stronger personality than either the prophet or the Nevarin from the previous books. In particular the sacrifices Arran must make to fulfill his mission resonate very well. The visceral nature of the writing style is very enjoyable, especially during action sequences where I enjoy the way Michael's writing turns into impressions and images, rather than a dry description of the action.
The division of the book into two acts works well, but the maps by this point are almost just decoration. The second act has a completely linear structure, and the first act is somewhat linear also. The town of Ryker's island is well-fleshed out, and a great place to hang out in.
The lack of careers was something that bothered me (or at least, it felt like a lack). Even though there was only one fewer career per class than HoF, they somehow felt worse - less compelling.
The new racing mechanic was good fun, and added a nice minigame-like aspect to the book.
The introduction of death moves is quite fun, and there are a lot of multi-enemy battles in the book, so plenty of opportunity to use them. Unfortunately, multi-enemy battles are still something of an exercise in book-keeping. Tracking everyone's health, plus which abilities you have used can be rough. Also, the lack of team battles in this book is frankly a relief. Team Battles in Heart of Fire very quickly became a bit of torture, because there was so much to keep track of - 20+ abilities between the two heroes for example.
The balance of this book was very different to that of the previous two. For a start - there's a huge amount of gold, but not a lot to spend it on. Even after pimping out my seld, I had around 1000 GP by the end and little use for it. Unlike LoS or HoF, there were hardly any compelling purchases in the first act, and the second act's shop is only available if you choose one way in a key decision in that act.
The item balance in this book is very different from either of the two previous books. In LoS, there were some clearly unbalanced choices and items. In HoF the items were more balanced, but there was a clear progression, and a sense of optimal choices being available. In EoWF, the tradeoffs are much more significant. Each class has two or three categories of item that have no clear optimal choices available (e.g. head for rogues, the only decent 2 Speed hat gives armour bonuses). The use of runes in this book has progressed from book two. Some of the runes are surprising and fun.
EoWF is a considerably lower-powered book compared to the previous two. In practice you can expect to reach about 14 speed and maybe 23 brawn (my rogue). This is in comparison to my mage from HoF who reached 15 speed and !36! magic, and my rogue from LoS who reached 17 speed and 30 brawn.
While speed is still king, it's not quite as completely dominant as in the previous two books. Also, as a result of the item balance, ability combos become more interesting. A good example I managed to cook up was Warg Strike (or reaver career ability) + critical strike + mangle to deal 24 damage.
Not as good as Heart of Fire, but a great deal of fun. A solid entry in the series, which shows the author switching things up a bit, and keeping the gameplay fresh.