I know why they've done this. They have to tell the story of the actual war, and the evil ex-boyfriend (nice one, guys), in order to set up the next book which is clearly all about what's beyond the ring. That's right, this one has zippo on all those intriguing things you learned during #4 (on the planet Ilus), and also no sign of Miller. As much as the crew of the Rocinante (now grown to 6 people) believes they've exorcised every particle of him, I expect he'll be back in the next book (or in #8, and definitely in #9). Maybe only because I want to see Thomas Jane at the end of the TV series.
Everything else is as expected. The writing is stellar. We appreciate our protagonists more this time around because they're so happy to be back together. As expected, there is almost no splitting up of the team (well, a little bit at the end, but it's not like they're very far from each other). Plus Alex gets a love interest!
And, folks, have we forgotten the protomolecule sample?? Don't forget the protomolecule sample. I'd bet even money that it'll show up in the next novel (#7). C'mon, library book borrowers. Hurry up and finish this so I can.