Unlike most fantasy series, this one has been steadily getting better as it goes. The third entry is my favorite one yet, and it avoids/ameliorates some of the problems that I had with the first two entries. The schemes are a bit less bad, and in some ways the entire thing is just less dire and more fun than the previous entries. The main focus is on a contested election in a republic, where the election itself is just a game played by the city's real rulers, the mages. So in many ways the stakes are less than life and death, and more about social and economic competition and deception. In other ways the stakes are higher, as you find out more about the larger world building, the previously mysterious mages, and the more cosmic factors at play. The author also introduces more of his magic system, which is often neat and intricate and interesting. I feel like the more the author gets away from standard stories and tropes and into his own creations the better he does. There was even a neat moment when I thought he was going to explain away the success of some of Locke's past harebrained schemes by saying that it was, literally, magic. That is to say, it was not just authorial fiat which explains why Locke was so convincing, but a sort of sub-conscious magic that was playing out and resulting in his success. Sort of how in the Star Wars movies you have The Force as a stand in for what the author wants to happen. The author didn't end up going that way, but it was still a neat possibility.
Oh, and it would not be a review of a Scott Lynch book if I didn't find something to complain about. This time the (marginally less annoying) fly in the ointment is the romance between Locke and Sabetha. This has to be one of the most extended and badly waged and romances I have read, and you really just want to shake either/both of them and tell them to stop wasting time and to find someone who they are actually attracted to and fit with. I feel like CJ Cherryh or your average fan-fic writer would have known how to fix the situation; make them gay. That's not a suggestion that I make often, but in this case Locke/Jean really is a better connection than Locke/Sabetha. Ok Scott Lynch, you know who to send the royalty checks to for your big reveal in book 4!
Anyway! I just generally like the characters and world and sort of low key adventures that happen. It is not great literature, but it is on average enjoyable.