This final book tries to achieve an epic conclusion that sometimes works and other times doesn't. While there is plenty of action and humor, Jaxter's growth as a character is a bit convoluted or I was just too dense to figure it out right away (it was a waning-brain-power Friday). In previous books Jaxter learns to defeat magic with science and rely on his brains to solve problems. He continues to do that in this book and I thought his arc was about choices and consequences. But this isn't really the case, because Jaxter doesn't struggle much with choices and consequence, he just plows forward like a bull in the ring. He's impulsive and loyal to his family. They come first and his decisions are fast when it comes to helping friends. The result is not an indecisive character with thinks through all his options. He never listens to Aubrin who just gives half-finished, vague prophecies that add to the tension. Of course, when monsters are trying to kill you it's hard to sit down and have a chat about a prophecy. Like the first book, I appreciate how the author turns the prophecy trope upside down. He is showing the fallacy of prophecies and their unreliableness; that prophecies represent choices and no one can predict another person's choice. And that is really Jaxter's arc. He can change the future by making his own choices.
Jaxter's family is somewhat of a twist on the Robin Hood legend. Robin Hood frees the oppressed, steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He is a symbol against tyranny and greed. The High Laird of the country's current government is a poor leader and an ensuing coup puts a new corrupt group in power that is just as greedy placing high taxes on the general population and making life miserable. The new group uses monsters to intimidate people and take their money. The royal family in the form of the Dowager represents the old government that once freed the Provinces from a tyrant ruler. While the people didn't exactly like the High Laird, they'd prefer him over the new rulers and their monster military. Like Robin Hood, this series captures a human desire for justice and equality. While Jaxter's family supports the Dowager and royal family, they have always tried to stay out of politics. They are heroes to the oppressed masses because they are neutral for the most part and use unofficial networks when getting things done. They rely on other thieves and have no ties to the corrupt government. Even the Dowager has no political role in the government. She has chosen to not be a part of it. Not until the end does the Dowager take a political stance and even then it is to form a new government elect, not become a ruler.
The female characters are strong and Jaxter's mother is a hoot. Aubrin manipulates Maloch into doing what she wants by crying. When he leaves, she gives Jaxter a devious look and says, "See this face! It is a weapon!" To which Lupa responds, "I fear your cuteness arsenal." Nanni, Jaxter's grandma, forces Uncle Garax to apologize with some fierce earlobe pulling. When she sets off explosives and has smoke wafting off her head along with a blackened face she asks, "That tinder jack is powerful stuff! Where can I get some more?" Later, she's being chased by the enemy with her skirt hiked up and not to worried because she has time too wave to Jaxter. Much of the violence is toned down with humor and is more silly than scary.
In the first book I could relate to Jaxter's clumsiness, especially when he accidentally burnt down a house. I have started a few too many kitchen fires in my days. In this book Jaxter has come along way. He starts a fire on purpose as a diversion and not by accident. Instead I found myself relating to the Dowager's miserable grasp of languages. I have said a few inappropriate things in Chinese living in Taiwan. The Dowager is always messing up the par-Goblin language adding terrific humor. When she tries to curse she says, "prudent soup." When she tries to name the new government she calls it "naive" instead of "wisdom." The author has continued his wonderful made-up words for swearing or monsters or other exclamations. The gags lope along throughout the entire plot. Great series.