Friday, January 31, 2014

Review of The Emperor's Blades (#1 Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne)-Brian Staveley

The Emperor's BladesThe Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writing 4/5
Imagination 4.5/5
Plot 4/5
Setting 5/5
Characters 3.5/5

My Overall Enjoyment 4.5/5

The Emperor's Blades largely lives up to the massive hype surrounding it as well as my own as I was have been anticipating it for months. It must be very difficult to be a debut author with that much to live up to because it was on so many ”best upcoming fantasy” lists even though the author is mostly unknown. After finishing this book I do see why many were excited about it. Also, Macmillian put on a masterclass in book advertising that all authors and publishers should look at to be more successful in getting their own books in the public eye.

When taken as a whole or broken down into smaller elements of a story, this book is extremely good. This is a very epic story, with world building similar in scale to A Game of Thrones, Gardens of the Moon, and The Way of Kings. There are 3 points of view, all by children of the emperor, 2 sons off training and the sister as a minister in the capital city. Secondary characters are very minimal which I like. I enjoyed the plot-lines almost equally and no one character really stuck out at me in a way some have in other books. The 2 brothers take up most of the scenes with the sister having a smaller, yet important part. The author used the 480 pages very well; it didn't seem too long and a lot happened. It was a pretty quick read with the beginning 1/3rd a little slow but that is the case in nearly all epic fantasy I have experienced. The plot starts to advance much quicker and stay pretty steady for the rest of the book.

The religious system is excellent. There are numerous different “cults” and bits and pieces of world history sprinkled throughout referring to ancient races, gods and goddesses, and kings of old. This makes a very rich, believable world that I enjoyed learning about. Learning about a world's history (lore/myth/back-story or whatever you want to call it) is one of my favorite parts in epic fantasy and there is no shortage here yet there are no parts that were just huge “info dumps” or “council of Elrond” scenes which bother some readers (I love those kinds of scenes). Magic is not introduced introduced until well into the story and then very gradually and it just kind of creeps up but by the end I thought it really worked well for the story. There are also a couple different beasts/monsters in this book, all of which were well executed and add depth and flavor.

The whole ending sequence was great and has me looking forward to the next installment in this series. Rating this was hard and I dislike the 5 point rating scale. For me, it falls a little short of a 5 because while I really liked this book I didn't love it as I have a few other books. However, I enjoyed it better than a lot of 4 star books too so I give it a 4.5/5 for personal enjoyment. Having read hundreds of fantasy books this is in the top tier of epic fantasy.

As for grimdark elements, it definitely has some of the violence and types of characters that stand out in grimdark but this is more of a standard epic fantasy book. At times dark and gritty but it didn't exude grittiness like most of the other books that fall into the grimdark genre. Being a grimdark lover, I can recommend this for those readers as well as those looking for a new epic fantasy series.

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1 comment:

Nathan (@reviewbarn) said...

Certainly agree the the publicity machine for this one deserves a star. Most hyped debut in some time.

Didn't work as well for me as it did for you, but not a bad book by any means.