Book 4 took me three weeks to read, this one I knocked off on the train this afternoon. And not entirely because they were both due back at the library. In fact this is easily the best book of the series.
That said, Magiere is still grumpy (but actually making sensible decisions and not just being Miss Stubbornpants), Leesil is sullen and confused but sort of actually has a reason now, Wynn is still annoying but actually gets useful, Welstiel and Chane... meh, who cares about them.
Chap has a major part in this, which is always good. He learns a whole lot more about himself, and finally gets to actually have a life of his own, for at least a while. I love Chap, he's a great character.
And Wynn instead of flouncing about the place getting lost and needing to be rescued, flounces about the place, gets lost, needs to be rescued, but actually makes a useful breakthrough in the plot in the process. Well it had to happen eventually, right?
But the elves. Haughty, arrogant, insular, beautiful and deadly know-it-alls, everything we love about high fantasy since Tolkien elves. Ok, maybe that's just me. In fact they are magnificent bastards nearly to a one, except for maybe Sgäile's grandpa and Sgäile's niece (I'm not even going to attempt to spell their names.) And most especially the Most Aged Father.
The Hendee's tendency to over-describe is not so bad when the environment is new to everyone, and everything is alien and fascinating, and they are reacting to that. But still, there's endless pages in the first third or so devoted to some thieving rodent thing, and it just keeps on coming up. I figured after about the fifth time, there had to be a point, it was going to be important later. But no, at some point someone says "oh that thieving rat thing hasn't been around stealing things lately, I guess we left it at the last village... ha-ha-ha, sucks to be them". Seriously, do these guys just not have an editor any more? Does it matter that the unnamed barge captain wears his goatskin vest without a shirt and fur side in? Or that Wynn saw a mushroom and two birds and a tree and another tree and....
Anyway, as I said, although they do go on a bit, it's much more readable here, because we're also seeing Leesil feeling alien in a place that should be his home, Wynn being fascinated by evvvvvverything, and Magiere being cranky (because, Magiere), and Chap feeling totally at home, and having a wonderful time.
Also, I think I have a small reader-crush on Sgäile. Because I can. I have a thing for blondes, and he seems to be the only character in the whole book series who just says what's going on. (Oh and I'm on to you Hendees, nicking gaelic words and substituting random nordic letters and apostrophes, does not a new language make.)
But now we're all set up for the final book in this particular arc. Which is where I'm stopping, because even useful Wynn still sets my teeth on edge, so I'm just not going to read a whole new series about her and Chane.