September 3, 2016 by McDowski
Resist faith. Resist trust. Believe only in what you touch with your hands. The rest is error and air.
The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy.
Such is the brief premise of The Emperor’s Blades, the first in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, a trilogy from relative newcomer Brian Staveley.
A very good book. The book is basically told from the POVs of two siblings, the only male children of an Emperor who has just been murdered. There is a third sibling, a daughter, but she hardly gets any screen time at all. Perhaps she will have a larger part to play in the next books.
Kaden is the second of the three children but the oldest male, which makes him the heir. But he’s stuck somewhere off in some remote mountains having his ass beat on a daily basis by monks. Why the monks behave this way is an open question; there is implication, of course, that his training will help him later on, but why do the monks have to do it by abusing the acolytes? I guess it’s to make him hard and strong. *shrug*
The youngest child is Valyn, who is off somewhere else entirely being trained as a Kettral, an elite group of soldiers. The cadets here, too, endure borderline torture in the name of training, because… I guess it’s to make them hard and strong. *shrug*
The oldest child, Adare, is the only surviving member of the ruling family still in the capitol, and is hell bent on seeing the High Priest, who she suspects of being the killer, pay for his crimes. But, alas, she is a girl, so the book rightly ignores her for the most part.
Okay, I know. The pithy summary I wrote above doesn’t sound very good. But really, I’m
just in a pithy kind of mood. The book really is very good; well-written (and well-narrated by Simon Vance) and does a good job of setting up the greater conflict while also bringing some measure of closure to the immediate problems at hand, rather than leave you hanging.
The characters are believable, if not exactly original – Kaden’s mentor is a monk with a mysterious past, Valyn’s has an arch-rival in cadet training who seems to get away with far more than any reasonable military establishment would allow of its members, and Adare… is a girl. She even throws in a couple of very un-Princess-like hissy fits to remind us of that fact. (If there is one criticism I have from this book, Staveley really ought to do a much better job with her character.)
The plot is very interesting; it’s quite clear that there is some scheme going on regarding the Unhewn Throne, but it’s also clear that the forces behind this scheme are much more than mere power-hungry traitors. There is something larger at play here, which we will only learn once we finish the trilogy.
Overall, I would give the book a solid 4.5 out of 5.