Starting a new arc of the story is always a challenge. While The Mechanical Crown is a single, on-going, novelistic story, it’s also structured somewhat like a television show: therefore chapter 1 of arc 6 is like the first episode of a new season, and that’s often the time when a show declares “this is what this season is going to be about”.
With arc 1, that was Tranton trying to survive in the snow. Mysterious, threatening, but also relatively low fantasy: it was intended as a gripping but fairly approachable (Within the context of a lone explorer up a mountain) introduction.
Arc 2 focused in on King Guijus and Fenris, establishing that the arc was going to be more political and focus on the scheming in the capital.
Arc 3 opened with The North, where we get our first proper look at Thedous Lief and the city of Bruckin, and see for the first time that they’re not simply The Bad Guys. It immediately establishes that the story is about to expand much wider than just Treydolain.
Arc 4 launched with Age of Impossibility, a Queen Anja chapter which dropped HUGE hints about what was really going on, and began to introduce the more fantastical elements that have featured in the story ever since. It was the book declaring that things were about to get weird.
Arc 5 began with Through the Gates, a pretty clear declaration that we were moving on to the next significant stage of the story. It was about leaving Bruckin and the valley behind and crossing the mountains towards…something else.
With Arc 6 and The Way Forward it’s again setting the board for what’s about to come, focusing back on the valley and establishing where certain key players are. We’ll get back to what’s happening on the Aviar side of the mountains soon enough, but this chapter is a very good indicator of where the arc is going. It’s also a mostly hopeful chapter, after the unrelenting climax to arc 5.