Review: The Emperor’s Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #1) by Brian Staveley



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?


I know I’m in the minority on this but I did not care for this book.

I should have. The elements of a good book are here. The writing is solid as is the world building. And yet, the parts never came together into a coherent whole for me. Enough things are just off about this book for me that it just didn’t work. I didn’t care for the way that Valyn’s primary antagonist (that he knew of anyway) was painted as a one-dimensional sadistic bully. It’s the most lazy form of villainy there is, especially when you throw misogyny on top of the sadism. I didn’t care for the way that Adare’s story, while ostentatiously there to give us an eye on the capital, may as well have not existed for as little time as we spent there. Learning what she uncovered ultimately doesn’t mean much when over the course of a nearly 500 page book we know learn little more about the plot against the Emperor and the Empire than we knew at the beginning. Hell, we don’t even know much about the Empire. Was the previous Emperor good? Bad? Indifferent? Maybe he deserved to be overthrown, we don’t know because see absolutely none of it.  Ultimately, I almost feel like this book was bloated – that for as long as the book took, very little actually happened once you boil everything down.

Finally, there’s just something about the way this went down that I felt like I didn’t really form attachment to these characters. Kaden, Valyn and Adare all seem like decent enough people, but I don’t even know that I ever felt like I learned enough about Kaden to judge whether he’d make a good Emperor. He wouldn’t be sadistic, but beyond that? Is he intelligent enough that he’d be able to swim the political waters?  Does he have the strength to make the decision to send men to their deaths in the name of war? We see Valyn begin to figure out how to control his group of Kettral at the end, but is really going to be a good leader? How good of a minister is Adare?

I just don’t know.

And I should know. I should have a connection and investment in these characters and I just don’t.

I was going to tentatively list this as a borrow it, but when a book so utterly fails to leave an impression on me, I really can’t.

Verdict: Skip it. The book seemed so promising, but just couldn’t deliver.




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