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“The Ascendancy Veil” by Chris Wooding


The final novel in the Braided Path trilogy manages to successfully build upon the previous two novels to produce a largely satisfying conclusion to the series. At the end of the previous book the Weavers seemed to have delivered a devastating blow to their opponents. As we pick up the story a few years later we find that the Weavers haven't had everything their own way, but now seem poised to achieve a final victory over their enemies.

The series was never particularly light-hearted reading but the final volume is particularly grim, starting off with a battle featuring a horrific and seemingly unstoppable new foe and then progressing through a series of battles and set-backs for Kaiku and her allies in the fight to save Saramyr. One disadvantage of this focus on conflict is that it means the last book is a bit lacking in the world-building that helped to distinguish Saramyr from the pseudo-medieval Europe setting of most epic fantasy series, but I suppose that might have been unavoidable given the plot. Throughout the series Wooding has shown he isn't afraid to kill off characters and this continues here, with several important characters getting killed, including a few memorable and fitting ends for some of them. If the first book in the series was maybe a bit too predictable at times, the ending of the story is a bit more original although I suspect I'd have been more impressed with one crucial plot twist if I hadn't anticipated it due to Guy Gavriel Kay using a very similar plot device in his Fionavar Tapestry series.

It does eventually come to a fairly satisfying conclusion with a good combination of action/battle scenes and character-focused scenes, although some aspects of the ending do seem a bit open-ended. The ending does have a bittersweet and somewhat cynical feel to it, which is appropriate given the rest of the series, a purely happy ending would have seemed a bit jarring.

Overall, this was a series that improved as it went on and although I've read better epic fantasy series in recent years and it was never quite as compelling as the exuberant adventure of Woodings' later Ketty Jay series, the Braided Path trilogy was an entertaining read.

Rating : 8 / 10

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