The only reason you would read this book is if you're a long time Feist fan. If you're not then you're missing out on 28 years of continuity, characterisation and story so head back to the start. If you're a long time Feist fan you'll more than likely be aware of the drop in length of his books since the end of the Serpant War Saga. This continues here with a book even shorter than its predecessors; scraping in at just over 300 pages. A shorter length, however, doesn't mean a poorer quality book, just that you'll be getting less than normal. This is the second, and last book, of the Demonwar Saga, and considering the first book (Rides a Dread Legion) felt like the first third of a story (all set up and exposition with little, if any payoff) you know there's a lot to cover in this shorter book.
The plot details the hunt for Belasco, brother of Sidi, and the Conclave of Shadow's attempts to stop him from raising Demons, in particular a demon named Dahun, and bringing about the destruction of Midkemia. All in all, pretty standard fare at this point in Midkemia history. However it's the characters we've come to know and love which keeps fans reading. But ultimately these characters are done growing. There is little in the way of characterisation in this book; the two Taredhel brothers introduced in the first book don't do much, they are simply reacting to things throughout. Their history is not drawn upon to create any dialogue; most of the time they merely ending up pointing at the next plot point and saying "What's that?" "Let's check it out." and then discovering some piece of Deus Ex Machina. Sandreena, a Knight Adament introduced in Rides a Dread Legion, is given the only thing which could amount to character development in the book. However her turn from distrusting men (save a few in her Order) due to her treatment as a child and teen, to trusting the (thanks to the death of Miranda) all male Conclave of Shadows comes after finding out that her entire life has been manipulated by half of the people in the top echelon of the Conclave. It seems ridiculously quick and thrown in because Feist ran out of space at the end of the book and needed the Status Quo to be maintained.
The primary characters fare worse; Pug, left reeling after the death of his wife Miranda, now fears for the safety of Magnus, his son. This does not stop him throwing Magnus into fights, or indeed alter his decisions at all, thus making Miranda's death feel like nothing more than a cheap shock tactic. Magnus, unfortunately, came into the books as they were being shortened and thus has never had much in the way of a character to begin with. We are told, again, that he is cold and impersonal, because of an incident as a young man with a woman. However, this is still left undeveloped and his character continues to feel like simply a tool; he helps Pug win battles against demons to show how strong the demons are, but doesn't really do anything himself.
Possibly the most annoying moment in the book comes when Tomas shows up, in Elvandar. Once again he says he's the most powerful being on the planet, and that only Pug can beat him, but once again he does absolutely nothing. At all. It's in all actuality a cameo appearance which does absolutely nothing to forward the action, the suspense, the plot or the characters involved in the scene.
The writing is poor, made all the worse when you remember how experienced Feist is at writing. In describing the demon Dahun, Feist uses the exact same description three times in the book. The gore present in At The Gates of Darkness is banal, never really shocking since Feist sticks to describing the deaths of characters we never learn anything about; they are simply described by race. Also, if Feist can't tell the difference between your and you're, then there's hope for every fourteen year old on YouTube to get published. Perhaps the most shocking piece comes during the introduction of plot device/character Keandar the dwarf. He appears in two chapters in the book, but the second time he's called Kendra. When the writer can't keep track of character names you know you're in serious trouble.
I wondered at the end if Feist has an editor anymore. Probably not considering how many books he's sold, but even still someone along the way must have read this prior to publication, someone must have noticed the inconsistencies, the at times poor grammar, the lack of any characterisation... if they did, they didn't say anything. This, combined with the short length, makes for a boring, at times painful, but short read.
There's not a lot more to say about this book. Fans of the series will not doubt want it, mostly just to see how the story ends and what happens to the characters we've been reading about for over twenty years. All I can say to you is don't buy this book, get it from a library, or simply read the plot summary online. Aside from one tiny semi-development on the nature of demons, there's nothing worth reading here, even for the hardest Feist fan.