Book three of the Iskryne trilogy
By Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
Available now from Tor (Macmillan)
AN APPRENTICE TO ELVES is being billed as the conclusion of the Iskryne trilogy. I'd hoped for more books in this series, but this is a good note to go out on. The Iskryne books are inspired by Viking history, with elves, trolls, and companion wolves thrown in. The first book detailed the world and the battle with the trolls, and the second book bought in a new human threat - the Rheans, who are basically Romans.
Once more, the book is told by new narrators. AN APPRENTICE TO ELVES alternates between Alfgyfa (the daughter of the first narrator, Isolfr), Otter (a former slave rescued in the second book), Fargrimr (a sworn son who is the jarl of the heall closest to the Rhean invasion), and Tin (an elf smith who brokered the alliance between humans and elves with Isolfr). This helps expand the world and showcase more lifestyles of the people within it. It is the first book with female narrators, so many of the points of view were much needed. I did feel like the Rheans delaying their invasion for more than a decade was mostly so that Alfgyfa could become old enough to narrate.
But overall, I enjoy the way the Iskryne trilogy has grown and changed since the first book. The first book, A COMPANION TO WOLVES, felt like a commentary on Pern and how the dragon relationships worked. Over THE TEMPERING OF MEN and AN APPRENTICE TO ELVES, it has become its own series, with complex relations between and within species. I loved that this book was not all war, but also an examination of how the two groups of elves broke apart and a fierce drive to bind men and elves closer together before their alliance crumbles without an external threat.
AN APPRENTICE TO ELVES is not a fast-paced novel. It ends with several big battles, a thrilling finish that had me racing to the conclusion. But that is not the pace of most of the novel. This is a series interested in ferreting out details of the characters and their place. As I said, I'm sad that this will only be a trilogy because I feel like there is so much of the Iskryne to explore. If this is where it ends, though, I'll be satisfied.
I think you can read AN APPRENTICE TO ELVES on its own, but you'll miss many worldbuilding details and some of the characters' histories if you do.