Having now reached the end, all I can say is there's just so much I love about this series. I love all the intrigue and scheming, the complicated web of alliances and grudges. I love how much intricate detail is given of the world itself – even things like the food are described in such sumptuous detail that you'd swear you can smell it and your belly starts growling in anticipation. Things like the clothing and the architecture and the climates of different places are also conveyed beautifully. But the detail never bogs down the story (things do slow down sometimes, but never from description), it's all seamlessly weaved through. Incredibly well-written.
As I mentioned in my review of the first book, it's also refreshing to read a story that doesn't draw on the same old Western European mythology (not that such stories can't also be interesting), but on Middle Eastern legends that I'm not so familiar with. I really loved how, in this book, deities from ancient Egypt and Babylonia made reappearances, and just that neat correlation where they faded in power and influence as belief in them faded (supplanted by Islam). The way all these different mythical creatures and legends and the magical system blended together made for an awesome setting.
But much as I've enjoyed all of this, what really makes this series stand out to me is the characters. They've all grown and gained a lot of richness since the first book. Nahri is so compelling in her determination to end the oppression of the shafit, her dedication to her healing craft, her out-scheming of extremely experienced schemers like Ghassan and Manizheh. I like how, while there are hints of romance in the series, Nahri's priorities are always her people and her own independence. Dara's an interesting character – I don't think I could say I like him, his utterly grim and depressing chapters are coloured by his conflictedness and his guilty conscience in a way that makes for good reading. Ali has grown massively from how naïve and easily manipulated he was in the first book. Then a number of the side characters are great as well – Muntadhir reminds me so much of my partner's oldest brother, Zaynab is another character who's grown massively since the first book, Jamshid is impossible not to like, Hatset's motherly protectiveness is so understandable, Manizheh is an incredible villain and what happens with her over the course of the book is just chilling. But to be honest, it's great characters all the way down. There are a number of even more minor characters I could have brought up here. I think this is an area where books 2 and 3 have been able to ramp up so well from the first one.
The book is very long, and there are points (mostly around the middle) where it bogs down a little – mostly scenes with expository dialogue are the culprits though, which is a tough one to resolve because it wouldn't be the same story if some of these details were kept from the reader. At any rate, it didn't stop me loving the book. Overall, this has been such an impressive series, especially once the ground-laying of the first book was over (and I did like that one well enough!). Very excited to see what further stories S.A. Chakraborty puts out.