Book Review: The Emperor’s Blades By Brian Staveley


January 25, 2014 by Ifeoma Dennis

The Emperor's Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne)The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars





Every once in a while, I read a book that makes me go description
The awesomeness. I just can’t even.

The story, as the blurb tells us, revolves around the three children of an Emperor who must find their father’s murderer, while saving themselves in the process.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Except it’s not.

But first of all, let me say waiting till next year for the sequel doesn’t please me.

At all.


On to why I liked the things I liked:

It was a thrilling ride all the way from the mountains where the monks live to the island where Valyn trains and to Annur where Adare, the only daughter of the Emperor lives. One thing I liked about the worldbuilding was Staveley delivered it in a way that was easy to understand, inspite of its complexity. I didn’t even need the glossary at the end of the book, which goes a lot to show Staveley’s competence in weaving a multiplex world that doesn’t confound his readers.

The world had an abundance of humans, magic, leaches (who control magic and have this unique thing called kenning or wells), gods, the Skullsworn (savage assassins, sort of), the Kettral (umh…official assassins who flew these awesome birds), monks, and supposedly extinct immortals who may or may not be still alive.

Also, can I say the author really knows his military strategy well.

The story is told from the POVs of the Emperor’s children.

Adare gets the lesser of all POVs, but by the time you get to the end, it makes sense why this is so. The plot had to start from outside (where Kaden and Valyn were) to get to the centre. I doubt this story would have been possible if it started the other way round. And with the way the book ended, I have no doubt Adare would have more chapters in the sequel. Matter of fact, she’s likely to become the character I’ll be rooting for the most in THE PROVIDENCE OF FIRE.

Kaden is in a monastery where he is assigned a monk that puts him through an almost sadistic-type of hell, and I wondered what use any of that hell would serve him in playing Emperor, but at the end, it made perfect sense.

Valyn, who is training to be a Kettral, got most of the POV chapters since it turned out he was not safe even on that remote island, and at a point, he was my favorite character. But at the end, I’m really not sure. I love them ALL. And I’m coming to the reason why.

Apart from the Emperor’s children, there were other supporting characters, and even though those didn’t get a POV, I loved how they were neither cardboard cut-outs nor flat characters. Each one had a gray side and came alive, and I felt every death.
This leads me to the next point.


Call me what you will, but I’m not a fan of books where characters die unnecessary deaths just for the sake of giving us the shock effect. THE EMPEROR’S BLADES doesn’t do that at all.
There were deaths, deaths of very favorite secondary characters, deaths that made me ‘kent-kissing swear and want to fling my Kindle to the wall. BUT those deaths were not just there for being there. They made sense.

As for language, this book has some cool fantasy swear words.

Me: Mr. Staveley, this was ‘kent-kissing good. Can I have the next book now?
Mr. Staveley: Wish I could but you’d have to wait until next year, I’m afraid.
Me: You mean to tell me I’d be dangling off this ‘shael-spawned cliff until next year?

It wasn’t until the end that I truly understood what the “shael” part of the latter meant. And it was so fitting. Also, I like the alliterations.
Call me what you will, but again, if the curse words in a fantasy book sound silly, it’s likely I won’t finish that book. Some people judge a book by the cover, I might judge mine on swear words. 🙂

And the dialogue, let’s just say I had a lot of highlights as I was reading, some of which I shared on Goodreads. But my favorite might be this:

We all have our hobbies,” Kaden replied. He could have been discussing farming techniques.

No, you won’t understand how AWESOMELY BRILLIANT and well-placed the line above is until you read it.
And although I really loved following all their POVs, this was the point I developed a huge crush on Kaden. I’m that weird girl who usually reads books with witty and/or strong male characters she admires but never enough to fancy them as a boyfriend fictional crush. But I really like Kaden. Let’s just keep it at that. 😉


The plot started off at a good pace, and even got more intense as it went on. Let me just put it this way: the author knew just how to control the ebb of tension, so much that this is a book I don’t think anyone would drop once they start. And can I say it is one of the bestEST climax I’ve read?? It was drawn-out, scary, pulse-racing and fulfilling. Very, very fulfilling. The author did not try to tie up things quickly or too slowly. It was just…perfect. Like I said, there’s no doubt the author is a master of tension and pacing.

I also liked how there was no superfluous subplot, how every single thing tied up at the end. Some are not so tied up, of course, because the question of the real murderer is yet to be answered (matter of fact, I think the real question would be how would the murderer be defeated? Can they even be defeated?) but the book ended at a very good place…that sort of place that doesn’t feel like cheating, yet makes you go
Because we all know January 2015 is way too far away.

View all my reviews


4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Emperor’s Blades By Brian Staveley

  1. tawney13 says:

    This book sounds awesome! I love fantasy and world building. Books that leave a great impression always helps a writer better their writing. I can’t wait to check this book out!

  2. Jodi says:

    The book sounds awesome. I love that feeling of reading an awe-inspiring book. Of course it intimidates the hell out of me too, ’cause I’m like, “I’ll never be able to write like THIS.”

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