This felt like a short story that was forced to become a novel. Like an underachieving student stretching an essay to meet a required word count, it felt repetitive and too long.
I was hopeful going into a story about Evvy and Rosethorn together; I found their relationship in Street Magic interesting. Evvy mostly interacted with Briar but Rosethorn was a steady presence in the background, supporting them both, making Evvy feel welcome, and mostly just being Rosethorn. Unfortunately, since then, Rosethorn, Briar, and Evvy have been through a war together. Do we know anything about this war? Besides some bad dreams and cryptic comments throughout The Will of the Empress which made me think I had somehow skipped an entire book, the Circle Reforged series seems to be written to create confusion until you make it to the end and finally get the whole story in Battle Magic. At least in The Will of the Empress there are four protagonists so the gaping void of information is less intrusive to the story. In Melting Stones, Evvy’s entire personality change and her character flaws are blamed on this war and it’s just too much to try to overcome or explain with only side comments.
There were a few good moments and the concept was interesting. It just wasn’t enough story for an entire book and it probably should’ve come after Battle Magic, not before.