This is the first series I read by Kate Elliott, of whom I had previously heard A LOT of good things. But I just felt like the series was really slow moving and I didn't find myself caring for any of the characters very much. Honestly, I felt like a huge portion of each novel could have been cut out and the story would have worked much better, or at least had been a little faster in it's pacing. Although I should say I recognize how well thought out the world and the series was as a whole, which is why I've rated it so high (even though it's reveal of why the bad guys act as they do was... lame).
However, I will say that my lack of feeling any attachment to any of the characters changed in this last novel. I was always ambivalent about Anji, and Mai always seemed too perfect -- seriously give the girl a flaw. Joss just annoyed me to the point where I wanted to yell at him to get over his dead ex-girlfriend already. But I will admit that I liked Nallo and Pil, and Peddo, even Snake. In fact, because of these four I wish we had been able to see more about the lives of reeves; it just seemed really cool to me -- the job, the eagles, the lifestyle, the camaraderie... But I digress.
What I wanted to say was that second-to-last scene between Mai and Anji at the end just really hit me emotionally. In fact that whole last part, Part Seven: Gates, made me really care for Mai, Joss, Bai, Shai, and the Guardians (well, except for the first couple of chapters). And that seals my rating for the series and makes me want to go out and read Ms. Elliott's other novels/series.
Edited to add: I think one of the reasons I wasn't as big a fan of this book as I might have been is because my parents are from a part of the world that was under colonialism for so long, and once the reign of colonialism started winding down the whole region became a giant mess that's still trying to recover and find it's original culture and create a better life for it's people. So, I'm not a fan of reading about something pretty controversial in a fantasy fiction book that actually plays a big part in my daily life.