Step 1: The full disclosure.
I've enjoyed this series since I found it based upon an Amazon recommendation based in no small part to E.E. Knight's recommendation. Low and behold, Knight gave a recommendation of Anderson in the inside cover of this book.
I am an avid fan of this series and I will be buying the next book.
Step 2: What went wrong?
This book rambles. I get the feeling that the outline to this book was cooked up with some random dice, a bunch of post-its and too much focus on tying off dead ends. The world is huge and focusing on the East Front, Home Front, West Front, the New British Isles, and on Walker scattered the story too much. If I were to break the book up into the five functional novellas within it, I honestly could have discarded two of them and focused solely on East Front, West Front and Walker, and been much happier with the story. Had Anderson broken this book into two books, one for the East and one for the West, with anecdotes and details of how Walker helped in each theater, I could have enjoyed this story more thoroughly.
I don't feel like I got a good flow and climax in the book. I don't feel like topics were settled or really advanced. I see weaknesses in each story where it leans on the other and I absolutely grumbled at how much action seems to have occurred off stage.
Step 3: What was right?
The characters grew. Adar, our beloved captain, our Uul General, Admiral of the Sea Kurokawa, Reddy's cousin, even to a degree Silva(who I hate) grew in this book. They expanded, they learned from mistakes, they contemplated, but not too much. There was advancement in the story line for every major character and some off screen executions and end of storyline elements that were as abrupt as everyday life really is. Spoilers aside, there were elements of this story that moved, even if we were picking up those pieces like they were candy falling out of a shotgun blasted pinata. Some of the candy has buckshot in it, but there's still something sweet in here.
Step 4: Why a 4? Oh how I was tempted to throw a 3 star review at this book, but let's be honest, on Amazon 3 is the consolation prize you throw something you actually didn't like--I liked the book and I like the series. I want to see more books in this series, 3 stars was right out.
Why not a 5? This book is imperfect and I think the author knows it. I don't think you write for perfection, you write the story you have and you edit to perfection. I think somewhere in the process for this book there was too much shopping list and not enough solid editing choices. The difference between this book and a perfect book? Choices. Choices needed to be made to shorten the scope of what was being covered. Hops needed to be limited. The Game of Thrones is a good book, but Anderson writes better in his previous books. This book seemed to liken to that Ice and Fire scatter shot, ADD thing that makes those books so fulfilling.
Step 5: Why am I disappointed?
This book had a doorway within it that could have lead to greatness. There were huge chunks that could have been left to the reader while other scenes could have had more investment. I like long books and I think at the longest length novel in the series so far(I think I'm right on this) there was a quality that could have been given to these pages to add value. I think there were missed opportunities, but I will buy more books in this series and look again and again for Anderson to make good on his promises, because 9 times out of 10, he keeps them and you come back for more.
Step 6: Buy the book
I pre-ordered. I got my book before the actual publication date, because Amazon is cool like that. Hardbacks cost more than soft covers(paper backs) and even eBooks. You can buy the Hardback when it comes out, you have to wait awhile for the eBook and paperback. This is what you pay for. If you think it's a cheat, you're not paying attention to the process and you're missing your chance to understand it. Patience or more money, those are your options.
This book was worth not waiting. I recommend it in the context of the series and in knowing the series will not be complete without it.