So, decades upon decades later, I have finally read all of this series. Of course, I just read the first half three years ago, but I also read the books largely as they came out originally, but never got to see the fifth book.

The Castle of Hape picks up with Ramad a few years after the end of the second book. In many ways, its a more typical sword-and-sorcery action plot, with the seers facing tough times as something boosting the power of the dark seers enough to shut down all their powers. Along the way we get a new major character, which is where a lot focus goes that isn’t about battling a creature known as the Hape.

Caves of Fire and Ice is probably the strangest, or most unique, part of the series. When the runestone shattered, it scattered across time, or, you can say various people arrived out of time to receive parts of the stone. With time-wedgies part of the overarching plot, this is where it suddenly comes to the fore, with Ramad slipping through time, and showing up again to help fight off the dark seers at various times when they grow powerful again. Centuries pass, and major battles happen, and disaster strikes (of course) the unresolved romantic thread of the previous novel, before coming around to a downer ending.

The Joining of the Stone unexpectedly switches main characters. Ramad has died in the nearly two decades from the end of the previous book, and what happens is important, but only filled in later in somewhat disjointed segments. (I note that reviewers of this book say that much is missing between the two—not so! It just isn’t gone into until deep in the book.) So we start with Logon, Ramad’s son, who is still in the largely unknown north that the previous book ended in. And we start getting segments centering on Meatha, a secondary character from the first book. We’ve finally caught up to the time of that one and the characters from there are now living in Carioll. Meatha and Lobon’s stories are tied together by a common villain and the fact that both are obviously walking into a trap. That propels the plot of the first part of the book, and allows everything else time to get momentum for the final climax of the series.

Overall, the series structure is odd, and I wonder how much of this was intended when Murphy wrote the first volume with characters that would not be seen again until the end. (And to the series’ detriment, while I liked Ramad, Zephy was my favorite character and she doesn’t get enough time even in the last book.) Having the beginning join the end after a lengthy detour certainly works, and should tie in well with the side-theme of time travel, but it’s not directly connected enough to make a great thematic fit.

Ramad is certainly the central character, which makes the center three books being about him work well, but I think books 3 and 4 suffer a bit from not having as much character growth because he already had that in book 2. Which is to say, shifting time, place, and main character each time might have been better.

Overall, it’s a good YA epic fantasy, although a bit disjointed to be great. However, it has some really great moments, most of which are in the first two books. The next two feel a bit more like Andre Norton, and I would not be at all surprised if the Witch World books had been an influence on Murphy. All throughout, some of the subject matter is fairly heavy, and it doesn’t shy away from problems arising from pregnancy and the like. One final problem is the original books had a map of the land of Ere, which was helpful, and that is missing in these Kindle editions.