Hi everyone, I wrote this review a while back on Goodreads, but as I am about to revisit this series I thought I should post it up here too 🙂
The Emperor’s Blades
The circle is closing. The stakes are high. And old truths will live again . . .
The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy.
His son Valyn, training for the empire’s deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. He expected a challenge, but after several ‘accidents’ and a dying soldier’s warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can take action, he must survive the mercenaries’ brutal final initiation.
Meanwhile, the Emperor’s daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father’s murderer in the capital itself. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice. And Kaden, heir to an empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God’s disciples teach their harsh ways – which Kaden must master to unlock their ancient powers. When an imperial delegation arrives, he’s learnt enough to perceive evil intent. But will this keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?
Rating: 5/5 *excellent*
WARNING: Light spoilers
I should begin this review by saying that I’ve only just finished this book today, perhaps I will think differently after I’ve had time to gain a bit of perspective, but here we go…
I LOVED IT.
The Emperor’s Blades is one of the best fantasy books I have read in a long while. The author wastes no time in establishing a rich fantasy world with an assortment of interesting characters.
Kaden, Valyn and Adare are the three children of a murdered Emperor, who fight to survive and uncover a conspiracy threatening their family. There is a distinct supernatural element to the story, with mythical beasts, magical warriors and the threat of a powerful, ancient enemy returning.
This is an excellent ‘coming of age’ story, particularly regarding Valyn and Kaden. The former is a student at an academy for elite warriors. Very early on in the book he becomes aware that there is a conspiracy threatening his family, but before he can act he must complete his trial and become a Kettral. The climax and aftermath of this trial makes for a dark and compelling read.
Although Kaden remains largely unaware of his father’s death throughout the book, his story takes a similar tone to Valyn’s, with lessons to be learnt and trials to be overcome. This provides the reader with a great introduction to the characters, one that successfully weaves in the mythology and history of the world without being boring. Kaden and Valyn are established as distinct characters in a ‘show-not -tell’ manner that works well.
Without giving too much away, the climax is excellent. I love a book with good twists and I honestly didn’t see many of these coming. The action sequences are well written and fast paced, with brutal detail that reminds me a lot of GOT.
One reoccurring complaint about this book is the way it treats its female characters. Reviewers have commented that the physical features of female character are focused on too much. Virtually all the girls have their bodies described repeatedly and are often objectified by the men. Yes I agree that this happens too much, yes as a woman it bothers me a bit – BUT I don’t think it ruins the story.
There is no doubt that Staveley has created a patriarchal world, where women are viewed as the weaker sex and discouraged from prestigious positions. It is world where the women are seen through a traditional gaze. What else would you expect from a fantasy novel with an arguably medieval style? ‘Might is right’ throughout a conflict ridden empire, therefore the women are somewhat oppressed by the largely stronger male population. There is no democratic process which allows for minority representation or equality. However, within this world the author has created a number of strong, arguably modern female characters. Adare, Ha Lin, Gwenna, Annick (although she is a bit of a sociopath), Pyrre and even Triste show strength and defiance. Although the world is dangerous and dark, many of the women thrive in the harsh soil in which they have been planted.
Another complaint is that Adare’s story takes a backseat to Kaden and Valyn, with her chapters few and far in between. Yes I also agree with this, but I don’t think it detracts from the storyline. Having just read the first book, I can only speculate that events in the capital where Adare is based will become more important in the second and third book. This book after all was largely about setting things up and getting Kaden and Valyn out of their respective corners of the Empire. Therefore, a lot of stuff needed to happen with them. Adare is already in the capital and doesn’t have a great dealt to do apart from the trial of her father’s alleged killer. Would I have liked to learn more about her? Yes, but let’s wait and see how the next book plays out.