Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Emperor's Blades

As an aspiring fantasy author, one recommendation that I have taken to heart is to read new authors that are being published in the genre. In fact, when it comes to publishers, I will almost always pick up something new from Tor, and I have yet to be disappointed. And so as I was browsing my local library last week, I came across The Emperor's Blades. I was not disappointed.

The Emperor's Blades tells the story of the three children of the emperor, each of whom have been intentionally placed by their father far from one another to receive the training to protect the empire and preserve their lives. The oldest, Kaden, has lived for years as an acolyte to a mysterious monastic order dedicated to the enigmatic Blank God. The second, Valyn, is a rising cadet among the Kettral, an elite band of assassins named for the giant black hawks they ride into battle. And the third, Adare, serves as an administrator in the capital city, forbidden by her gender from every assuming the throne. But when their father is mysteriously killed, each of his children must rise to fulfill their destiny and unlock the secrets of an ancient immortal race.

The book alternates between these three viewpoints, moving the story through three separate arcs that somewhat come together towards the close of the book. The arcs of the two young men are quite similar, as each must rise through the challenges placed on them by their order while simultaneously trying to deal with suspicious and sinister circumstances. Adare's viewpoint chapters are fewer, but give the reader a large glimpse into exactly what is at stake for the empire and the challenges that they will face with the death of their father.

Overall I enjoyed the book. The world is vivid and unique, and weaves the themes of family, conspiracy, revenge, and coming-of-age into a very compelling tale. Magic is feared and consequently exists only in the margins of society, while technology seems to be on the rise, particularly in the area of explosives. The importance of the long-departed forerunners to the human race is clear from the prologue, but plays only a minor role in the overall tale.

There were two flaws that tempered my enjoyment, however. First, the characters seemed decidedly modern to me. In their speech, mannerisms, and even cultural expectations, at times they seemed too much like those from our own world. Second, while the large confrontation at the end brings a somewhat satisfying conclusion, I felt there was far too much left unresolved at the end. Several new characters emerge in the last few chapters, and the ending seems to be much too abrupt, clearly leading up to the next installment in the series.

Nonetheless, The Emperor's Blades is a great read, and one that I would not hesitate to recommend.

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