The first two books contained four parallel story threads: first there was the tale of Richard Hawkwood and his voyage across the Western Ocean looking for a new continent - but in the Iron Wars, Hawkwood does not show up at all! Which is unfortunate, because that was my favorite story arc in the series.
The second story thread focused on King Abeleyn of Hebrion, the young monach who dispatched Hawkwood on his quest. Abeleyn has faced civil war, he has confronted the upstart pope Himerius and declared a heretic for his boldness, he has plotted with the King Mark of Astarac, who sends his sister Isolla to marry him, and unite their kingdoms in harmony - but in the Iron Wars, King Abeleyn lies comatose, injuried by a wayward shell in the last throes of the rebellion that destroyed half of Abrusio. So this story story arc also stalls - true, we are introduced to Isolla, and we witness the machinations of Jemilla and the sorcerer Golophin, but it isn't the same level of adventure that swept the first two books along.
The third story thread involved two young monks - Albrec and Avila - who make an astonishing discovery in the catacombs below the library. But in this book the two do little more than carry the precious original manuscript, with its astonishing message, to the city of Torunn where the true pope Macrobius rules. The journey of Albrec and Avila isn't that perilous, so it isn't that exciting. Mostly it seems like Kearney is moving pawns around on his plot, getting the pieces ready for the grand climax in the next two books.
Almost all of The Iron Wars is the story of Corfe, a soldier who fled the fall of Aekir to the Merdukes, fought at Ormonn Dyke, and now finds himself involved in the court intrigue at Torunn. Corfe's story is that of a commander given a ragtag force of barbarians and ordered into difficult circumstances - but of course he molds his barbarians into an effective fighting force, and succeeds where he is expected to fail. Don't get me wrong, it is still good reading. Calvary charges and battles! Flanking manuevers and feigned retreats. But this fourth thread is the least original of the stories Kearney is telling - it is too predictable that Corfe will prove to be an able commander, that his troops will love him, and he becomes a general in the Torunn army despite his non-aristocratic birth.
I am still looking forward to the next book in the series, hopefully Kearney has now adjusted all the players in the game to their desired situations, and all the stories can advance again.