Like the previous two books, Rise of Gods and Wrath of Gods, the third installment consists of three acts. The first two acts continue the trend of the last two books with Peter, Fiona and Zeke continuing to gather their Deva allies in preparation for the climatic battle against the Asura in the third and final act. This is a mammoth of a book, the length of two standard novels combined. As such, you would expect there to be a slump somewhere in the story. That is not the case here. From the continued exploration of the world(s) he has created and the numerous revelations laid bare to the deep connections formed between characters and epic showdowns with others, Ashton hooks you from the get go and does not let go until the final page is turned.
The two main protagonists, Fiona and Zeke truly shine here. Considering the short length of time between events of the first and third books, it is amazing how much these two characters have grown. Each has a major role to play in the outcome of events and they embrace such with strength, will and courage. However, not only have they learned to embrace their heritages and powers, but also each other. Gone are the two shy young people exchanging awkward glances and nervous chatter and in their stead now stand two people deeply in love with each other, who, together, can overcome the impossible. I loved each and every scene they shared together.
War of Gods also boasts the biggest cast of mythological characters you will ever see. There are literally hundreds of them from pretty much every mythology in the world and the way that Ashton incorporates them into his story is masterful. As big as the book is, there is still too little page time to give every single one of these characters the limelight. What Ashton cleverly does instead is focus on a few, most of whom have up to this point had some significance to the overall story, and have them share the spotlight with the less significant ones at certain points during the final act. He also introduces us to brand new characters, some of which have already been mentioned or hinted at in the previous books. Doing so in the final book of a trilogy tends to be frowned upon in general. But when has Ashton ever followed the rules? The length of the book gives them adequate time and space to grow on the reader. The definite standouts are the Twins who steal the spotlight every time they appear on page. That is all I will say about them. There are a couple of others, but to even hint who they are would be a major spoiler. Ashton continues to make these mythological characters his own, so much so that I am going to find it hard in the future to separate his versions and the 'real' ones that shaped our world. If I was ever forced to choose my favourites, I would most likely pick Ashton's.
The final thing I want to focus on is the final act. I had the opportunity to meet Ashton at Worldcon in Dublin and remember him telling me that he wanted to end the trilogy on a bang. I was expecting the blast of a missile but what he delivers is the explosion of a nuke. The entire last act, over 200 pages, is one big bloody battle between the Deva and the Asura. I have heard some people comparing it to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in the Lord of the Rings, others the War of Wrath in The Silmarillion. It is both. The sheer scale is jaw-dropping. Ashton's present tense, third person omniscient and cinematic style combine to deliver one of the most memorable battles I have ever read, watched and could possibly imagine. It has everything from phalanxes of fanatic trolls battling legions of the dead and jet fighters dog-fighting dragons to the clash of titans and showdowns between gods. Every reader, even those who are not too keen on lengthy set pieces, will find something here. I am in awe of the sheer spectacle of what Ashton has wrote. Ashton also does something I have never seen any other author do (that I can remember). He takes a common cinematic technique in which a character in one setting narrates over events in another setting and somehow successfully adapts it to the page. Another clear sign of how confident and experienced Ashton has become in his writing.
I remember thinking how cool it would be for Hollywood to adapt the first book, but having read the third, I don't believe it could do it justice. War of Gods has everything you would want from the final book in a trilogy and more. Great characterization, settings that feel real and lived in, blood-pumping action and a well-executed plot, Ashton delivers on all fronts. Do yourself a favour. If you have not already done so, read the Paternus Trilogy.