At the start of the series in Traitor's Blade, we have this trio of best friends; magistrates called the Greatcoats, or less affectionately known as Trattari, scorned by the people of Tristia and on a mission to further the obscure plans of their executed King in honour of his dreams of a better country. While previous book, Saint's Blood, was amazing, it did digress from this ultimate plot behind the series in dealing with religious aspects.
This finale brought the focus squarely back on the treacherous political landscape of Tristia and how Falcio, an idealistic man enamoured with upholding the law, had to make the difficult decision between being true to his ideals and going against them to fulfill his promise to a dead King. The story started with a first act that was at once cheesy but really fun as our awesome trio contrived to 'save the day' in direct opposition of what they were ordered to do. The narrative progressed with expanding on the politics that shaped the country, by bringing the reader to a land and its people outside of Tristia - Avares and its barbarians - and the best of all in revealing the long lost lore of the Dal Verteri - the twelve ancient orders amongst which included the Trattari, the Bardatti and the Dashini.
The plot was well-paced and weaved through revelations, twists and turns with the expertise of a master duellist and at every lunge, parry or riposte I wondered how Falcio was ever going to overcome the odds. To this end, I was relieved that it was never something that was too unbelievable and he had to necessarily rely on his reliable entourage. An entourage of really great characters, both old and new, that I've grown to care about throughout these books. The appearance of one particular individual from the first book was a pleasant surprise and proved to be quite pivotal for the final battle. And once again, the character development of yet another villain was both surprising and very well done.
Was this all I'd ever been? A reflection in the eyes of others? A man with no dreams of his own, who only tried to live up to the expectations of those he cared for?
The characterization of Falcio through the entire arc of the series was compelling to the nth degree. He was by no means an outright lovable character. As heroic and valorous as he can be, he can also be equally belligerent and childishly petulant, and sometimes even downright insane. However, given the sheer amount of trials and tribulations that he had to endure time and time again, his reactions are wholly realistic and it is hard not to empathise with him. Even a well-tempered rapier has a weak spot and Falcio's weakness fell heavily on his inability to let go of his past but it also lent him a strength of will that was almost inhuman at times. He might not be your favourite character in this series, but you won't be able to help yourself from feeling frustrated when crap keeps getting heaped on top of him and cheer him on when he takes control to face an impossible situation. Being the First Cantor of the Greatcoats really is the most awful job one can ever have in Tristia.
Fortunately, of course, he has the infallible Kest and wonderfully kind (and awfully hilarious) Brasti. Bless both their souls for they are the most amazing friends one can ever hope to find in their lifetime. Brasti is a personal favourite simply because he injected so much heart and humour into an otherwise really grim narrative. My favourite moments in the whole series are almost invariably the ones when the three of them were together.
"Gentlemen," I said to Kest and Brasti, "I'm of a mind to attempt something rather daring and heroic."
Brasti grinned. "I assume this preposterous venture of yours is doomed to fail?"
"Assuredly. But we're going to do it anyway. You know why?"
Kest had a broad smile, one I'd rarely seen before. "Because preposterous heroics are the only things we've ever been good at."
This was a tale told from the first person perspective of just one character, which makes it an intimate journey to me as a reader. So while the climax of the story involved a battle of a few thousands, it felt personal than epic; I am not able to grapple for the right words or phrase to describe the feeling but it's different from reading about the clashing of huge armies and death on a massive scale. But this was what made it so satisfying for me. This story was never a grand sweeping epic but of a journey of a broken man who vehemently sought to fix what he saw to be a broken country with a singular devotion to his late King. And its denouement was perfect for me.