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.
A trilogy. Say it in three. Done.
This is the first book of an epic fantasy trilogy, set in a Japanese-type medieval culture. It's told in 3rd person, with the POV limited to the Emperor's three children, ages 17, 18, and 21. He calls them his blades. Hence the title.
I would rate the contents PG 16. Violence with tons of bloody gore. No sex, but foul language includes lots of F-bombs and crude sexist language, especially in the Kettral Training Grounds. At times, it was all a bit much.
Good book, despite some quibbles. For a nice change of pace, the magic is atypical. Leaches are born with the ability to draw power from a particular element (like Butcher's Codex Alera). There are ancient portals for traveling long distances, created by the gods (yes, gods play a fairly big role). We also get huge birds with an 80-foot wingspan, trained to fly warriors into combat, similar to Temeraire -- His Majesty's Dragon. (But unlike Novik, Stavely failed to make these birds seem real to me, because he never showed them cold, hungry, thirsty — eating, drinking, sleeping, etc.)
Then they are the nearly immortal Csestriims, a pre-human race, amazingly intelligent and utterly without emotion (see prologue). These Csestriims want to wipe out humanity, similar to the Cyber-race in Battlestar Galactica.
I like the length. Excessively long fantasy novels are not my thing. This series is fairly dark and sad, but also promising, with an engrossing plot. Stavely offers a measured blend of action, dialogue, and interaction. Some internal reflection, but not too much. I enjoyed the proverbs from the monastic Shin (Zen) masters and the quotes from the Book of War.
Scenes transition nicely, without jitterbug leapfrogging (Yay!). Chapters transition from Kaden, studying at the Shin monastery in the Bone Mountains at the edge of the world, to Valyn on the Qirrin Islands, striving to become a Kettral (a black-ops elite warrior who travels on a huge kestrel-like raptor), to the eldest sibling, 21-year-old Adare, the first female finance minister, working in the capital city. When their father suddenly dies, life is never the same for the three, and the race is on to save the Unhewn Throne.
I was afraid all the adults in the book would be incompetent or evil — as many of them were. That would be a total turn off. For credibility, a few adults showed courage and sense.
The map in the e-book is blurry but the author has a sharper image on his blog site. There is an appendix of information about the various gods in the book.
Narration by Simon Vance is nearly perfect but some voices sound too much the same.
It was OK. The narrator does a good job most of the time, although I feel that he sometimes fails to properly adjust voices to moods, and some characters have weird accents. The monks were easily the most well voiced characters overall. Some characters also sound the same, but a man can only have so many altered voices in his repertoire, so that can be forgiven!
But the problem I had was... I never felt really invested in the characters. They were pretty flat, and for most of the time, nothing noteworthy really happened. I also felt they were all... almost the same? Very same-ish? For a book completely about the fate of the Emperors Children, I didn't care at all what happened to any of them.
For having both been included in highly strict/disciplinary orders from a very young age, both of the sons are really disobedient. Especially the lad training with the 'elite' regiment- why would they ever tolerate so much disobedience, why aren't the soldiers semi-brainwashed into following all orders?
And each time there's a chapter with the girl, all she does is tell herself "I'm going to play this calm and cool" and then has an emotional, unstable outburst to fuck things up. Every damn chapter.
Probably not. I didn't like this, and I've seen other reviews hailing this as some amazing thing, so I'm not stoked.
I loved him in Dune, and liked him here. He's not very good at female voices, but he really nails some of the older males, especially the monks and overall I think he has more than sufficient immersion to bring the characters to life.
Maybe my disappointment is bigger because I had this book hyped up for me, which is why I'm surprised it was so... bland. Just full of tiresome cliches. The worldbuilding doesn't feel convincing.
It was confusing at first, we were given a brief glimpse at something that had no real context. If you let yourself get past this confusion the author explains it. Not in a concrete way, but it is understandable if you remember it when Kaden, the Monk in charge and Tan talk about Csestriim. His delay in mentioning it sooner might have made it harder to connect the two.
The only slightly frustration was when the narrator was using voices some of the changes between the monks and the Kettral veterans sounded the same to me.
In the end I would recommend the book. I am off to listen to the second one in the trilogy.
Overall I thought the characters were flawed like people are supposed to be. The plots engaging and made one want to listen to the end to see where the author was taking us. The interactions between characters held a nice degree of complexity yet were simple in their feel, even with the conflict between them. If you get the book give a a chance beyond the confusion of the prolonged and you can find the gem beyond.
This book got off to such a great start. I had really high hopes which gradually dimmed with each successive chapter. Little things started to annoy and add up to the point where they direct all my focus and erode my enjoyment of the story.
The story is a fantasy sword piece told from the three POVs of the Emperors children who are young adults near the ends of their varied training. One is training as an elite commando type warrior, another a zen like monk, and the third as a politician/diplomat. The world build is incomplete but interesting nonetheless. A sinister plot is afoot and they are all soon in jeopardy from a mysterious source. The stage is set. I'm intrigued. So far so good.
Then the plot just bogs down. The middle section just drags. Endless drawn out training sessions which became rather extreme and non believable in their severity. The author is quite fond of long rambling introspection from his characters. Angst, self doubt, feelings of unworthiness...etc, etc. It grows tiring. A good bit of editing could have fixed this.
And then there are the YAish fantasy cliches. The Draco Malfoy character who is a total sociopath yet nobody except the protagonist seems to mind one bit. Really? Everyone would hate that jerk. The plot twists become very predictable. The lead characters trust all the wrong people and suspect the people who are really on their side. They blunder into obvious traps. They get their "superpowers" in sudden epiphanies at just the right time under tremendous stress. Another pet peeve is the repetitive use of stupid sounding fake curse words. Kent Kissing? Holy Hull? Shale Spawn? And yet they drop F-bombs once in a while. Just stick to one system already. F-bombs work just fine and aren't silly sounding.
The conclusion is anything but. Almost nothing is wrapped up. We have no idea why or who was behind the whole plot. Really nothing at all is revealed. After 18+ hours of listening. Frustrating. I know it's a trilogy but if your goal is to have one really long book then just make it a really long book and not a trilogy. Each book in a good trilogy should have a meaningful conclusion of it's own. As an example, Brandon Sanderson does a great job of this in his books.
Some of us may not want to read the rest of it. I'm on the fence on continuing. It feels like I am being manipulated into doing so due to so many unresolved plot lines, ie all of them.
Engrossing, Engaging, Epic
I'm not a huge fan of comparing books to others. While there may be similarities, subtle differences can ruin a novel. Blood Song by Anthony Ryan would be my closest approximation.
The Emperor's Blades is one of the most engaging novels I have listened to in a long while. Many months and books later, my thoughts continually return to the novel. Many fantasy novels fall into the trap of spending all their time world building. You hear so much about different peoples and cultures that you end up losing any kind of narrative. The Emperor's Blades focuses primarily on narrative working in the world building perfectly. I can't recommend it high enough. The only novels recently that have held my attention to the same degree would be Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series.
I enjoyed the story. Always some action happening. But the narrator did an awesome job and made it even better.
Good story juggling. I'd enjoy more banter please! And the wonders of the story, the magic system, the Ketral with a capital K, and the battle scenes could be explored more. Flying tactics and strategy were barely touched upon.
Good book and promising start to this series but I have two big complaints. First, the story does not really progress much over the course of the book. The characters are well written and the plot is engaging but you don't really get anywhere until the final quarter of the book and then it's over. Second, the only female POV character has significantly less story time compared to the two male POV charterers which made it feel very unbalanced. It was clear which character the author favors. But other than that it was good and I look forward to seeing how the story professes and hope these qualms are addressed in the next volume.
"Slow to start but worth hanging in there."
Great story well worth your time and a credit but struggled at the beginning, but it picks up pace and is a really good story.
"Excellent - a good buy after two mistakes"
I'm afraid I can't comment on a comparison between the audio version and the print version as I don't read much these days - it's so much easier to listen especially while driving or dozing!
The death of one of the main characters came as a surprise - unexpected but poignant. I won't say who so as not to spoil your enjoyment and speculation.
Simon Vance reads well - much better than some narrators I've listened to on Audible. He's clearly read the book innumerable times in preparing his performance. His obvious enjoyment of the plot is deftly transmitted to the listener.
The death of a character early in the book was a particularly moving section. The author painted a stark picture of her lonely, sadistic, lingering torture and death.
I'm looking forward to my next credit so I can buy the sequel.
a well written first book, plenty of good characters, well fleshed out with enough plot to keep you riveted. nice to get a book where you see many characters plots being slowly woven together to for a strong plot line. Cant wait to get the next instalment. Definitely worth a read or listen, probably the best debut I have read since magician by Ramond E Feist
"My kind of Fantasy"
Really enjoyed this listen from the 1st chapter. Some of the characters are a little cliched but the storyline more than makes up for this. The author gives us enough action and intrigue throughout to keep the most avid fantasy fans interested.
Although not my favourite book this year its still well worth a listen with plenty of potential for future books in the series. I will be keeping an eye out for the sequel.
"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.
"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.
desent book, intresting ideas(the eyes, beasts, backstoryis, lore) god and demi-gods somehow always hit its mark with me and the narriator is good, its somehow similier to words of radiance or way of kings not in writing but rather in new ideas. always some gods there and you dont really know if theyre there or not
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.
"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.
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