It's pretty rare that I rate one of the later volumes of a trilogy/series more highly than the first (the only instance I can think of off the top of my head is Speaker for the Dead
, the sequels to Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game
.) In this case, it's probably because all of the niggling little loose ends Hobb tossed out in the first two volumes got tied up rather neatly, and not just expediently. That said, I still think that she could have trimmed these books substantially and made two tight volumes instead of three. Althea's endless angst
-ing about her future, Malta's immaturity, Kyle's parochial mindset, the contradictions in Captain Kennit's self-talk and his interactions with his companions -- after two or three iterations, we get it, and it becomes a little boring.
There were a few twists in this volume I didn't see coming, though, like the development of Selden from a barely relevant side character to one of major importance. I also enjoyed the allusions to past and present events in the Six Duchies (setting of Hobb's Farseer trilogy) throughout the three books.
It was a good concept, and I appreciated the unusual setting of the trading families and sailing community. I just think the now-common projection of a three-book arc required more legs than the concept could realistically carry.