I’ve been a fan of Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Song of the Shattered Sands series since the first book, so I was eager to read the latest installment, When Jackals Storm the Walls. Character arcs and plot threads that built up over the previous four books converge as the nature of the gods’ plan is revealed. Çeda, her friends, and even some of her enemies, will have to work together to prevent catastrophe for Sharakhai.
This book provides a payoff for a lot of things that have been building up over the course of the series. To go along with this, we see larger-scale conflicts among both mortals and gods. There are some truly spectacular set-pieces here, with Crowning Moments of Awesome and/or Heartwarming for some of our favorite characters.
Jackals also gives us more insight into the world of the Great Shangazi. After the gradual worldbuilding of the first four books, I had assumed that the reader now knew almost everything that was relevant to the main plot. But Jackals takes things another level deeper, building on what seemed like throwaway details earlier in the story. In the fandom for Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere books, there’s a saying that “there’s always another secret.” This seems to also be true of Beaulieu’s series, and it’s clear that one of these newly hinted-at secrets will play a major role in the last book.
This does make the pacing a bit slower than it was in the previous novels. That may seem like an odd thing to say, when I’ve just talked about epic battles and great character moments. Those things do happen, and they are satisfying, but it feels like there’s a lot of material surrounding them that the reader has to get through to reach those satisfying parts. Beaulieu also introduces a new significant secondary character. While I liked him, this is awfully late in the series to be bringing in someone new to be an important factor. I think it would have been better to let Davud and Esmeray achieve their goal either entirely on their own or with the aid of a previously-established character. That flaw aside, this is a strong entry in the series, and I can’t wait for the finale.