The final volume of Kate Elliot’s Crown of Stars series has a lot of work to do. The cast has grown enormous, multiple threats are coming at the main characters from completely different sources, and the political situation is a shambles.

And she pulls it off excellently.

This isn’t just a big ‘lets smash everything into each other’ ending (though there is a battle that largely does that). Instead, there are some very good bridges across technically separate storylines that serve to advance the plot. Moreover, the process of bringing things to a conclusion, brings in, and explains, things that have been in the story since the first book.

There are problems. There are (reasonably large) threads that still feel unnecessary to the series as a whole. But everything generally wraps up well, with a decided sense ‘this is not the end’, but still with an end to the tumultuous events of the last decade.

An interesting bit is that the original two main characters of the series, Liath and Alain, have a good understanding and mastery of who they are now, and spend these last two books leveraging their abilities. But Liath, the half-human one, stays essentially human throughout, and her position the series’ best character, while Alain basically becomes a force of nature.

There are two large questions I still have: Why does the shift of religion from Translatus to Redemptio also shift God from an equal Male and Female duality to a Mother and Son model? And what makes Taillifer so special? Certainly, he’s this world’s Charlemagne, and politically that is going to be important, but I don’t see why the Seven Sleepers were so insistent that they needed a descendant of his for their plans.

As a whole, though, Crown of Stars is not only a very good epic fantasy series, but a better, and much more tightly written one, for all its sprawl, than the ‘big two’ of the last twenty years, and the best one I’ve seen since Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.