I finished The Soldier wondering how the Free Men Trilogy would end, and how it could possibly end happily. I shouldn’t have worried. Kate Aaron pulled it off perfectly with a third act filled with longing, guilt, and finally – absolution. The third book is from Lysander’s point of view and we finally get to see the burdens that have been troubling him for so long – his marriage of convenience that cost him a friend, a duty that requires great sacrifice, and a childhood friend he wants to see happy and yet always finds himself competing with.
There aren’t really any great twists or surprises, but this book didn’t need them. The strength of this series is that the characters grow as people enough to finally make choices for themselves. Tam and Kai have both chosen to be with Lysander, and now Lysander must decide if he’s strong enough to stay with them, or if he’s willing to let other people dictate the course of his life. The ending is more satisfying than I expected, offering the m/m/m relationship the hope of a long-term future.
The side characters shine a lot in this third book, too. While Neemah initially came off as somewhat cold-hearted in The Soldier, we see a more human side to her here as Lysander’s friend, a woman who experienced great hurt because of the lie they constructed with their sham marriage. Watching the two reconcile their failed marriage into friendship was almost as satisfying as seeing Lysander’s relationship with Kai and Tam. Caspar, too, far from being just Neemah’s lover, is a man who is worthy of respect in his own right and someone Lysander clearly looks up to, even though he’s somewhat jealous of him. Their relationship is fraught with non-sexual tension that adds flavor to the story.
I could read fifty more of these books. I have the world’s strongest book hangover right now. Favorite books I’ve read all year? You bet. This series hit my reading spot perfectly – enough plot and world building to keep me interested, enough romance to give me that warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach I crave yet rarely find. I really can’t recommend this series enough and it’s very rare to find a trilogy where all three books are equally as strong. I loved reading every word and I’d love to see more fiction set in this universe.