The final book, 'The Price of Spring', is a slightly slower read, perhaps, than its predecessor, but is even more powerful and moving. We see the final result of decisions made by the characters decades ago, and how these shape their lives and relationships. The focus is on the aftermath of the war, and how best to move forward. If nothing is done, both the Khaiem and the Galts will be destroyed. Otah's plan is to accept the world as it now is and unite the two nations in a bid to overcome their mutual problem. Maati's is to create an andat which will restore everything to the way it was before. The conflict between these ideas, and the consequences of them, form the core of the book, but as always it built around the more intimate matters of love, family and friendship.
It is a joy to find a fantasy series which is tightly plotted from end to end, without a single unnecessary character or side story. The concept of the andat, ideas made manifest and brought under control, is utterly brilliant. The world itself is magnificently realised, particularly the poetically beautiful culture of the Khaiem, with their elegant robes, graceful poses and awe-inpiring cities. Abraham gives us enough detail to convey the flavour of each city - the food, the streets, the majestic palaces, the traditional etiquette and stifling formality, but we also see, if only briefly, the rougher but more dynamic society of the Galts, built on enterprise and technology.
There are many such dualities throughout the book - the relative roles and abilities of male and female, the stasis of tradition versus the constant change of initiative, duty versus love or family, authority versus instinct, selfishness or the greater good, and perhaps most of all, the acceptance of change versus the desire to go back to the past. The book raises many issues: does it matter if we are not entirely suited for the job we find ourselves doing? Is it enough simply to do the best we can? The importance of women. Should we always forgive a betrayal? Is forgiveness more important than vengence, and at what point does forgiveness become impossible? The power of words and ideas. How our own imperfections affect everything we do. And what to do about a useful tool which could also destroy the world in seconds.
These four books form a very profound work, one which rises far above the usual level of fantasy. Undoubtedly the themes it raises will be discussed in academic circles in years to come.