This book was a slog in a series I normally enjoy.
Arthur shows minimal to no growth in this book, relying on out of nowhere powerups to... still lose.
Every fight in this book generally goes: Arthur tries his best with his new higher powers, is fought to a standstill and eventually loses.
Except for one case where it was: Squeaks out a victory only to inexplicably let the bad guy live to come back to haunt him another day.
The only other exceptions are when somebody else fights, and surprise they just lose.
And then the bad guys will let them live for no reason.
The worst problems stem from characters acting unlike themselves and very dumb.
Arthur and Tess are force to live with the results of mistakes they made... that don't make any sense, both of their characters would have known better by now due to their upbringing.
There's a big reveal near the end that you can see coming from a book away, to the point that I think it was actually revealed in a previous book.
I see what the author wanted to do, he wanted to invoke a feeling like The Empire Strikes Back, where the heroes wind up losing and are left at a low point leaving the door open for them to come back and emerge victorious.
The problem is that this book is too much of "and then they lose" over and over again.
The armies of the allies are almost pointless, regularly run into the ground. The other Lances are barely worth of mention and a few might have been killed off screen.
The enemies are always ten steps ahead of them.
And when they're not, they're so powerful that most of this story makes no sense.
Every Scythe in this story is more than a match for a Lance, which are the strongest soliders the heroes side has. And each Scythe comes with a Retainer who is almost as strong. All the enemies had to do was fly up with their Scythes and Retainers, wipe out the lances and everything after that point is just cleanup work. Nobody else can even compare to the Lances, so they'd be able to shatter any army that challenged them, then send their own to clean up the remains.
The worst part is that the finale of this book requires one character to act like a stupid 8 year old. This character isn't 8 years old, they've spent their entire lives being groomed for leadership, they are aware of the power of the enemy and they are aware that their capture will result in a complete loss.
And they still do something so painfully stupid that it's hard to believe the author even wrote it.
The only good news is that after this book? The next one HAS to be better.
Though with my luck it will involve Arthur wallowing for a third of the book before the author macguffins him up to being strong enough to fight the enemies.
Two stars, I didn't like it, I might check the next one but it's a tough call.