12/11 I'm bumping this up to four stars. The second reading left me less concerned with plot progression, and more willing to luxuriate in the world that Stirling's made. Yes, there's no doubt that Rudi is going to triumph in every situation, but it's because he's Hero Incarnate. It's a lovely escape, and a wonderfully convincing dystopia.12/10 Another solid entry in the Emberverse saga, this book takes Rudi Makenzie and his cohorts deep into the middle of what used to be the United States. Their adventures are grueling and (need I say it?) gruesome.3.5 stars, really. A lot of interior monologues keep this from being quite as gripping as its predecessors. Also, there begins to be a sameness, a muchness to the plotlines. This does not hinder my desire to finish the series, however. The characters are strong, likable and most important of all, interesting. I care what happens to them, and I'm interested in seeing what will happen in Nantucket- I so hope we get to Nantucket in the next book.