In some ways this felt the weakest of the books so far though it was still very enjoyable. The last book ended very abruptly and so this one starts off exactly at that point. Garion and company are dealing with the consequences of that encounter and are fleeing back towards safety.
Actually this book is the first that didn’t feel a bit like a travelogue (though there is still lots of travelling), there’s only one new country introduced in the course of it. There are also no new characters introduced though Taiba is basically new as she only had the briefest of introductions in the last one. We also get one of the major climaxes here and it happens around the half way point which is a bit unusual. I doubt that any reader would be very surprised at it but it is still good nevertheless.
Another break from tradition here is that Garion is not the sole POV in this book. Ce’Nedra has a couple of chapters in the last book but here she has a whole section. The condensation she is treated to can be annoying but to be fair she is a spoilt sixteen year old so it is somewhat understandable. I’ve always enjoyed the formation of the army and it still holds up well. I also like that it doesn’t shield the characters or the reader about the utmost futility of it. The trip back to Faldor’s farm is very well done, honestly you can’t help but feel for Zubrette.
You could say that each book in the series doesn’t really standalone very well but it most definitely the case here. I would not start this without having the last book on hand.