Pros: lots of intrigue, lots of action, lots of unexpected plot twists, fascinating characters, brilliant writing
Cons: middle drags a bit, lots of swearing
Note: this is book two of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, and as such both the synopsis and review contain spoilers for book one. If you haven’t read The Emperor’s Blades, it’s a fantastic fantasy novel.
Picking up immediately where The Emperor’s Blades left off, the novel continues to follow the murdered Emperor Sunlitan’s children: Kaden, heir to the throne, is now able to enter the vaniate and use the Kenta gates built by the Csestriim; Valyn, is considered a traitor by the Ketral under whom he studied for the past 10 years, learning how to kill to protect the Empire; and Adare, who leaves the capital to find an army she can use to wrestle power from the general il Tornja.
There is so much going on in this book. The characters all travel a lot to get closer to their various aims, discover those aims need to change, and in the course of the book change drastically as people. It’s fantastic seeing characters react to situations based on limited and often faulty information, make decisions that affect their future - often very negatively - and watch them muddle through. The book feels more like reading history than a structured work of writing. Alliances change, trust is misplaced and/or broken, characters do things they regret and see things they’re helpless to stop.
Several battles pepper the book and the climax revolves around a war. There’s a lot of action, blood and gore. There’s also a lot of politicking, much of which went in directions I did not expect, especially in Kaden’s storyline.
The characters are varied in how they act, react and change. They remain entertaining and engaging throughout the novel, though I did find that the middle of the book dragged a bit, especially around some of Adare’s arc. The ending was fantastic though, and sets things up for what ought to be an amazing third book.
There is a lot of swearing, which fits the characters but isn’t something I’m particularly keen on. I’d place this on the lighter side of grimdark, because most of the characters remain sympathetic, even as they often end up doing horrible things. It feels like a cross between Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy and Daniel Abraham’s Dagger and the Coin series.
I really recommend this series.
Out January 13th.