Excessively brutal and ultimately nihilistic. I will not spoil the ending, but after reading the last chapter and the epilogue, I felt like I had wasted my time investing in the character and story. By the way the ending was written, one wonders if the author came to a similar conclusion.
Some things I did like:
* Well-deserved and perfect vengeance against a character who had tormented the MC in the last book.
* If the series is about modern China, the point at the end is well-taken (again, I don't want to spoil the ending). **edited to add: I want to clarify that I am *not* referring to the POV of the last character left standing; I am deeply disturbed that a culture which essentially fought a war to keep another addicted is being seen by anyone as "superior".
But overall, I gritted my teeth through a lot of this book. One thing that got on my nerves early on was the explanation of irregular warfare philosophy. (Read Max Boot and even Scott Anderson if you're interested in that.) Kuang's explanation made me feel as condescended to as, well, the main character. Had this been marketed as a young adult work, I would have known what to expect, but as it was, I cringed. Then again, given the extreme level of violence, that probably would have been inappropriate.
Always important to have a counterpoint to stories that make warfare seem like so much glory, but 1500+ pages in this series devoted to the gore and brutality of war was, as I said, excessive.