Paperback: 608 pages
Publisher: Orbit (5 Oct 2006)
I reviewed the third volume of The Aldabreshin Compass some few weeks back. This is the fourth, and definitely final volume (unless she resorts to the North West Frontier ... no, I don't think so).
The protagonist of the previous three novels, Kheda, is still incognito, still running his self-appointed and secret mission to drive the invading dragons out of the Aldabreshin Archipelago, with its many kingdoms, its fishermen and pearl divers, its silk weavers, and its total antipathy to magic in any form whatsoever. Aided by Risala and Velindre (the latter being both a wizard and a woman, and disguised as a eunuch scholar), he manages to dance between that need to use magic, and the pretence not to be using it. And, as well as his acceptance that magic is not necessarily evil, he also begins to see that slave keeping isn't good either, even though the culture to which he belongs feels that a slave is someone who didn't take enough care.
In the end, pretty much everything is wrapped up. There is a slightly odd exchange of characters at one point, which hints a little at the author moving one character aside to allow another one in her place, but that switch is also rather unusual - a core character isn't normally supposed to move aside - and it's good to have unpredictability in a story. The end is, perhaps, a little languorous: the story could have finished some pages earlier. On the other hand, sometimes it's good to see characters after the main story has finished, as when the Lord of the Rings continues well after the Mount Doom climax.
I hope we'll see more of the inhabitants of the Archipelago - it's one of the most delightfully distinctive worlds. Or parts of a world, since it's not the entire planet (thank you, Jules, for not making the whole place the same!). At the same time, I want to see more of the mainland again.
A satisfying close to the series.