I had to mull on this for a day before I could decide how to review this, because I did so love it (and the entire trilogy) but I am pretty harsh on giving out those 5 stars. I just couldn't find anything worth knocking off even a half star here, so, there you go.
So first a brief summary: After the disasters of the previous book, Fitz sets out on a quest of his own making, royally fouls that up and then is called, quite literally, to start another. And with a rag tag batch of companions, he saves the world but gives up nearly everything he loves to do it. And nobody will know.
This is a book about sacrifice, and everyone makes one, from Fitz, to Molly, even Nighteyes the wolf. It's debatable who makes the biggest one, in fact, from each characters point of view, I think they all have their heart broken in the way most cruel to just them - except for Kettle, who made her real sacrifice long ago and has been living with the consequences ever since.
These characters are very much alive, always with their own motivations, often dislikeable - even Fitz, at points, is cruel and capricious and hurts those who love him. But there's always a reason behind it, and that makes all the difference, compared to so so many fantasy books where people act so in this chapter and not so in another and have sudden changes of heart for no reason other than to move the plot forward.
And there are consequences here, for every win there is a loss. While this book, and this series, is built very much on the traditional fantasy tropes of a chosen one, a prophecy and a quest to restore things lost to the world. In this story, the chosen one doesn't get to have everything but is content in the end to just be, and to be allowed to be. The things once lost, though restored have a price both in the finding and in the using, and it's only through old Fitz the narrator's eyes we can appreciate just what a huge price that is, and how cyclical all things are.
Most importantly, after a few bad experiences with fantasy series, I am very happy to say there is closure here. Perhaps no a happy ever after, but who really gets one of those? Definitely not an ending either, but there is a definite feeling that this story is told, and if there are to be more books (and I know there are), they are to tell an entirely different story. I can see why Hobbs returns to this world, because I want to already, it feels vivid and full and that there is so much more to know, and I look forward to finding it out.