In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, the emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.
Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, learning the enigmatic discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power he must master before it's too late.
An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral, elite soldiers who fly into battle on gigantic black hawks. But before he can set out to save Kaden, Valyn must survive one horrific final test.
At the heart of the empire, Minister Adare, elevated to her station by one of the emperor's final acts, is determined to prove herself to her people. But Adare also believes she knows who murdered her father, and she will stop at nothing - and risk everything - to see that justice is meted out.
©2014 Brian Stavely (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through
I like the Emperor's Blades, but, given the many new epic fantasy series of the past few years, this isn't at the top of the list. It is clearly in the grimdark (Ambercrombie, not Rothfuss) camp - horrible events, moral ambiguity, lots of death and fighting. While not bad, it doesn't seem to add much interesting to the genre, and has some questionable choices.
Some of the questionable choices are worldbuilding. While there are lots of nice touches (sky ninjas on giant birds!) a lot of the rest falls somewhere between cliche and nonsensical. On the cliche side, this book mostly consists of the training of two different heirs to the throne. One is being trained in a monastery with (surprise!) taciturn, koan-spouting monks and has to find the meaning of their zen-like lessons. The other is being given hardcore military training with (surprise!) taciturn, tough-as-nails officers and has to overcome bullies and physical challenges. On the nonsensical side, apparently neither of the heirs to the throne are trained in anything having to do with ruling the empire that they are inheriting. Instead, they are subject to conditions that, for no really good reason, seem designed to have a very good chance of killing them.
The other questionable choices have to do with tone. There is a third member of the royal family, a daughter. She, like many of the women in the novel, gets a lot less time on the page. And most of the women we encounter get abused, tortured, or worse. It adds to a sense of discomfort throughout the novel.
Nothing here is awful, and the reading is great, but the book seemed rather forced, with motivations seeming muddled and the world not really cohering into a whole. The action was often well-done, but I think there are better new fantasy series to read.
A friend steered me to this novel, knowing that I rarely read fantasy (The Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings is about it). I was skeptical about it, but gave it a shot. The plot follows the two son's of the emperor who have been sent away from home, one to train as a monk and one as a soldier. The rebellion against the emperor touches both. From the start, I was in awe of the great writing. Descriptive scenes that might be boring in other books were impressive and entertaining here. The similes and metaphors made me smile throughout the story and helped make this fantasy world come alive. I have listened to the first three books in the Game of Thrones series, and I liked The Emperor's Blades even more. Why? Better writing, tighter plot, and more action. I liked the mystery element to this novel, too. It is equal to Game of Thrones in imagination. Staveley's characters are not as memorable as the best in The Games of Thrones, but that is the only area he fell short. That said, by the end of The Emperor's Blades, a number of characters had begun to come alive to me. I liked that there was just a touch of magic in this, making success rely mostly on human ingenuity. I finished this novel about three hours ago, and still feel a part of me remains in that fantasy world. My biggest disappointment is that I have to wait until the sequel is published!
Likes to listen while doing chores; likes to write reviews while he should be doing chores.
This novel starts a little slow and pretty conventional, but heats up quickly. It wasn't long before I was listening to it every free moment I had.
The early plot involves two royal brothers, each sent away as youths for training, one to a monastery and the other to Air Assault Ninja School. That in itself seems like a pretty derivative beginning, but the brothers are quickly dunked in intrigue when their father dies. The action, plotting and mystery remain pretty thick for the rest of the story. The main characters are put into many different challenging and life-threatening situations which move the story along. Also, since you keep switching back from one brother to the other at suspenseful points in the narrative, it is really difficult to find a good place to put the book down.
Staveley does an excellent job of keeping you on your toes. You are never allowed to get comfortable in your expectations. There are twists in this book, but the artful part of the twists are that some of them aren't twists at all.
The supporting characters are very well described. But for a few character traits, the main characters are written a little bit blank. Vance does an excellent job bringing them all to life. He is so good I will make special point of seeking out his narrations in the future.
I would recommend this book to any fantasy fan. The foibles of being conventional disappear quickly and are easy to forgive when you realize your being drawn into an exciting fantasy mystery.
Clever, fascinating and funny!
Flee - makes me laugh at his rude brash clever insults
Always a good job! Good voice and doesn't distract you from the plot
I don't know..but I would love to see this in a movie!
If you like a story with twists, raw humor and believable characters, you'll very much enjoy this book. Looking forward to the next one! :-) Good job!
I will listen to NO boring book. Old Fav's,Card, King , Hobb. New Fav's, Hill, Scalzi, Sawyer, Interested in Lansdale, Crouch, Konrath
HUNGER IS FLAVOR
Great beginning. You are there when the sheep whose brains have been scooped out is discovered. You are there as the Monk and the Warrior start training.
SQUINT HARD ENOUGH AND EVERYTHING LOOKS SUSPICIOUS.
Then the book turns into storytelling and we are no longer there. It all becomes past tense. It becomes boring.
If you are angrily waiting the next Game of Thrones book, than The Emperor's Blades is your book. The story is often stronger and more relatable that George R. R. Martin's stuff. Plus Simon Vance's narration is fantastic as always.
I love scifi and fantasy. I've been reading the genre for over 35 years now. While this book is well written and fairly narrated, it was just depressing. I listened to the entire book and there isn't a single scene that is amusing or light. There are three main characters. One is learning at a monastery where extreme deprivation and even torture are used as teaching methods. An example is being buried standing up so that only your head is exposed and being left there for several days. Another character is learning to be a warrior but is being singled out for ridicule and deliberate belittling by the instructors, is trying to avoid being assassinated while he and his friends are being beaten up by the bullies. The third character is undermined in her political tasks by treachery and dismissal as a woman trying to do a man's job. Even though the three survive to the next novel there is no real feeling of celebration or joy...just constant setbacks and an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. Don't worry, I've not given away any spoilers - what I've written is what you find in just about every fantasy novel but in the good ones, you are given something to be happy about and hope that the protagonists will do more than just survive, that they will win in the end. That hope is not presented in this book.
Simon Vance as always does a good job of narration.
Cuz the story could have been great...BUT you can't train characters for 7 years with really mean people and have them fall for obvious tricks every time they train...um Annoying is the only word that addresses this. Same for thinking non part of the group thoughts...its enough time to act like you belong......The story and ideas are great.....but what looks like a Lamborghini is a Ford Taurus...watch the brakes....
I wanted to like this book very badly. It has a good writing style and interesting characters. The world is interesting. But it has several flaws--not fatal flaws, but serious nonetheless.
First is the completely gratuitous use of profanity and oaths. If you have read my reviews I seldom, if ever, complain about that unless it's supposed to be a YA or children's book. But everyone in this book swears like a truck-driver. It's like they are all in middle school. Part of the problem is that the author mixes the f-word and other words we know with many made-up oaths, like Kent-kissing etc. And everyone ALWAYS say Kent-kissing (Kent being a god). ALL OF THE TIME. I listen on my phone and if I heard someone say that one more time, I was going to throw it across the room! Argh!
The next problem comes with the plot itself. It's the story of three teenage or young-adult siblings who are dealing with life after the death of their Emperor father, although the two sons don't find out until well into the book.
One (a son) has been at a monastery for 8 years and seems only to be taught the really important skills he will need as the next Emperor in the last several months of being there when it's almost too late. Why? No explanation.
The next sibling (another son) has been in elite military training for 8 years. He seems to have fairly poor skills as well. After 8 years you would think he would be fairly good at some sort of military skill. It's not military school. This training is supposed to be like Navy Seal training. Other members are excellent at things like archery. Not him.
Hey, Emperor Dad: I don't think these 8-year plans are working!
That brings us to the third sibling (a girl). She has been with her father all of this time. She has learned the ins and outs of life in court. She knows all of the important players in the government. She makes some mistakes but it seems like she might make a good queen. But girls can't be queen. Only males can be Emperor. She was my favorite sibling even though she takes up maybe 5% of the book. Too bad. I hope that she is more featured in the sequels.
At various times I wanted to give this book 3 stars and maybe even 4 stars. But then I think of other books I have read this year and this book just does not compare with Robert V. S. Redick's or Daniel Abraham's stories. Or Shawn Speakman's debut novel. Never mind 5-star writers like Robin Hobb or Michael J. Sullivan. I gave them 4/5 stars so I couldn't bring myself to give this book more than 2.5.
The reader is very good, especially when reading the evil characters (for whatever reason). He helped make the book better.
But will I read the sequel? Um...um...um. I don't know! Possibly. I do like the characters and the world is interesting. But I'm not sure it will be worth my time and money.
Always looking for twists in a story that surprise me!!!!
As an avid sci fi/fantasy reader, I've read 100s of this genre. Only rarely do I find a novel or series that is so excellent, well written, with a believable culture, characters that come to life as I listen or read, exciting storyline, and even-paced writing. The Emperor's Blades is such a book. I'm eagerly waiting for Book 2. This book was a terrific find. I place it with Daniel Abrahams' series "The Dagger and the Coin", James S. A. Corey's "The Expanse" series as well as George Martin's "Game of Thrones". Hope other readers enjoy it also.
"Cannot wait for Book2"
Note to self, I want to read the next book. I am being a bit cheeky by using this review to remind myself to get the next book when it comes out.
"amazing begining with such a wide potential"
With fantasy you can often get either political intrigue, beasts and sword play or spirituality and magic. The Emperor's blade will give you all three.
wide ranging epic, if you like GRR Martin or Brandon Sanderson, this will be for you. Big story's, wide ranging that have tangle and twist together.
not wanting to give it away, when the seemingly good become bad, and the bad protectors.
Even bore it ended I wanted more.
Give it a go, it makes itself worth it.
"Not to be missed"
Great book, fast paced and great fun. Lots of action with loads of twists and unexpected turns. It's not a poor farmboy who has a sword... It's written for a more mature audience and the world is well thought out.
The best scene for me was when the son of the emperor finds out why he was sent to a monastery to train as a monk.
When the note from the emperor to his daughter is found, that's a serious "know way!" moment too.
It's too big to read in one sitting. That's a good thing though, to be honest I wish it was longer. Fortunately there are more books to come.
Don't miss this book. One of the most enjoyable books that I have read this year and from a new author too.
Riveting, bloody good read, great story.
Many other books. But this one stands out head and shoulders. Extremely well written.
I always enjoy listening to Simon Vance, he does enough without going over the top. Each character has their own voice and comes across as an individual. Class act.
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