Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Emperor's Blades

I lingered while reading this book.  It's not often that I find a high fantasy that intrigues me as much as this one did.


Told from three alternating points of view, The Emperor's Blades sets up a battle for power for the Unhewn Throne and rulership of Annur.  The emperor has been assassinated, and his three children are spread across the continent.  The heir, Kaden, has been sent to a remote monastery where the extremely ascetic monks have fun training exercises like "try to drown the acolyte" or "bury the acolyte in a pit for a week."  It's basically all of your worst summer camp nightmares come to life.  However, all of these "punishments" have a purpose: the Shin attempt to reach the state of being/non-being called the vaniate.  Kaden's not quite sure why he's been sent to this remote and rocky wasteland, much less why he's training as a monk when, one day, he will be emperor, but Staveley unravels the reasoning behind the training.

Far to the south, Kaden's younger brother Valyn trains to be a Kettrel, the most skilled warriors in the world.  Each Kettral is part of a Kettral Wing, so named for the giant birds that they fly into battle.  Kettral training is equally brutal, but in a different way.  Valyn's story involves more of a murder mystery, but Staveley brings things together quite nicely at the end.

The last sibling, their sister Adare, is prevented, by virtue of being born female, from ever inheriting the Unhewn Throne, but she's always had a passion for numbers and strategy, so she becomes a Minister of the Empire.

Everything starts moving when the Emperor is assassinated, and the three siblings must survive their individual training, attempts on their lives from various and mysterious quarters, and the plotting of unknown enemies to make it back to the capital city.

Now, that's an extremely vague synopsis of the book, and purposefully so.  I can't ruin it for you!  If you love fantasy and intrigue, you need to read this book.  I thought the pacing was excellent and the world-building exceptional.  My only quibble would be the reduced role of Adare; however, I have a feeling she'll be playing a larger role in the coming books.

Highly recommended!

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