Review: The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley


Title: The Emperor's Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #1)
Author: Brian Staveley
Date of publication: 14 Jan 2014
Genre: Epic Fantasy

Author's links:
Website / Facebook / Goodreads

My rating: 5 stars

Goodreads blurb

When the emperor of Annur is murdered, his children must fight to uncover the conspiracy—and the ancient enemy—that effected his death.

Kaden, the heir apparent, was for eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, where he learned the inscrutable discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power which Kaden must master before it’s too late. When an imperial delegation arrives to usher him back to the capital for his coronation, he has learned just enough to realize that they are not what they seem—and enough, perhaps, to successfully fight back.

Meanwhile, in the capital, his sister Adare, master politician and Minister of Finance, struggles against the religious conspiracy that seems to be responsible for the emperor’s murder. Amid murky politics, she’s determined to have justice—but she may be condemning the wrong man.

Their brother Valyn is struggling to stay alive. He knew his training to join the Kettral— deadly warriors who fly massive birds into battle—would be arduous. But after a number of strange apparent accidents, and the last desperate warning of a dying guard, he’s convinced his father’s murderers are trying to kill him, and then his brother. He must escape north to warn Kaden—if he can first survive the brutal final test of the Kettral.

My Review

I don't read fantasy that often but I have read and enjoyed George Martin's A Game of Thrones and Tolkein's Lord of the Rings series. I picked this book after a friend of mine left it a raving review on Goodreads. Thanks, Litchick :)

It is difficult to review a book that you loved and didn't have any complaints about, still I will try to be as objective as possible in my assessment. 

I read a lot of romance, mostly contemporary and it is relatively easy for me to relate to the characters since their stories are mostly realistic. It is quite different with fantasy. For me a true sign of the writer's mastery is the ability to make the readers connect with character whom we know don't exist and are not real. And I have to admit that I felt pretty close and deeply involved with all the main (even some of the supporting) characters in Mr. Staveley's book. I even cried a bit at the death of one character in a particular, it was a very emotional moment, beautifully presented. (Mr. Stavely, you won't follow George Martin in this direction, will you?)

It is an amazing first book in an epic fantasy series. It starts slowly, creating a complex world, ruled by ancient and new gods and goddesses, an empire in turmoil after the murder of its ruler. This is the story of his heirs - two sons and a daughter and their struggles to fulfill their father's will.  

The narration flows smoothly alternating between Kaden's, Valyn's and Adare's storylines. The focus is on the boys mostly and I wish Adare was given equal attention, though the final plot twist related to her was rather shocking and attention-grabbing. They are evolve but it is more pronounced with the two brothers. It is a coming-of-age story story for both of them where they grow up through enduring hardship and pain. Kaden lives in a monastery and Valyn is training with elite military forces, yet their stories mirror each other in may ways. 

There were a number of plot twists that kept me on the edge the entire time I was reading the book. To say that the plot is interesting would be an understatement, it's captivating, engrossing, utterly absorbing. The story is even more powerful due to the wonderful writing style of the author. The world building is also very well done. We are thrown into a violent by ordinary people and supernatural creatures.

There is a dictionary of terms in the end of the book which comes handy and you can also check out a beautiful map of the Annur's empire on Brain Stavely's blog.

My review can hardly do justice to this amazing fantasy. This book goes straight into my list of best reads of 2013. I strongly recommend it to all fans of the genre and to anyone interested in reading a magical story about the fight between good and evil.

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