The Last Mortal Bond

The Last Mortal Bond
Book 3 of the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne
by Brian Staveley

TheLastMortalBondPart of me is at a loss for words as I struggle to describe how fantastic this book (and series) is yet the other part wants to gibber madly in a futile attempt at it. To put it succinctly, this book was excellent!

The story picks up almost a year after The Providence of Fire. So as a reader, there’s a bit of disorientation as we try to understand what all has transpired between books. At first I found it frustrating that so much had been skipped, but I later realized that had Brian tried to fill in that gap with actual story-telling, the final book would have probably been split in two. And honestly, most things that transpired in that period probably would have slowed the overall pace down.

Instead, in just a few short chapters, Brian masterfully tells us what all has transpired in the lives of each character and in the world around them. Some of the backstory was a bit of a shock, others teased at additional, future plot twists, and others took glimmers of hope I had and doused them with cold water. He then spends the rest of the 800+ pages taking us on a rollercoaster of events. Things you had believed to be true become suspect by a single question being asked. Good, heroic characters are morphed into broken, twisted people by a series of inevitable choices, and villians become victims before becoming self-sacrificing heroes.

When their father called them his Blades in his battle against the Csestriim, Valyn, Adare, and Kaden were untempered steel. And in book 1, they were obviously young adults, making young adult decisions. But by the time of book 3, the steel has been tempered. The Blades have been put to use. They’ve been bloodied, broken, mended, sharpened, and used. In the past books, they’ve been wielded by others, but in this book, they each come to a point where they make a decision to wield themselves. I have to say that the character development in this book is absolutely phenomenal. As I look at the arc of each character and see how they have matured and changed, I am simply amazed. These are truly three-dimensional characters. The characters at the end of The Last Mortal Bond are not the same characters from the beginning of The Emperor’s Blades. They’ve grown and adapted, and the voice Brian gives to each of them reflects that!

I will definitely be reading this series again….and probably again after that. It is giving fierce competition for my favorite fantasy series, and for good reason!

Re-read Rating
( ) definitely won’t read again
( ) might read again
(x) definitely would read again

Recommendation Rating
( ) wouldn’t recommend
( ) might recommend
(x) definitely would recommend

 

The Providence of Fire

The Providence of Fire
Book 2 of The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne
by Brian Stavely

TheProvidenceOfFireWow! I thought The Emperor’s Blades was great, but The Providence of Fire upped the ante on the series and was even better! Not only was it longer (679 pages compared to 545), but the intensity of action and scope of plot increased as well!

The Providence of Fire returns us to the empire of Annur and the roles Kaden, Adare, and Valyn are playing in saving it. We (as the reader) are able to track the situations and thoughts of each of the characters, and it’s a wild ride as each are forced to make decisions that seem right in the moment….but if only they knew what the others knew, they might choose differently! There was one particular (major) plot point where I wasn’t sure which way it was going to go as the characters were being fed conflicting pieces of information. As chapter after chapter passed by, I wasn’t about to discern which was correct until the actual reveal! And even then I doubted the veracity of it.

The difference in the characters’ placement in the story from the beginning to the end is night and day. No longer are the three children trying to work together…instead, it appears that they’re setting themselves against each other! And yet, if they could all just be in the same room and talk to each other, you wonder if they’d resolve everything and present a unified front to the forces that are opposing them.

And those threats have increased as well. In The Emperor’s Blades, the big, bad threat was revealed to be the immortal Csestriim, but that understanding is challenged, and it now appears that the threat is even greater than them. But is it? Or is this just another ploy being made by the Csestriim to wipe out humanity? On one hand, the gods have been described as humanity’s saviors in the war against the Csestriim, but now it looks like the gods are the enemy….or are they? Who should be trusted!??!?

I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but I saw a thread of confronting bigotry woven throughout the story. Most of the characters had to individually decide what to do with their belief that a different race or people group (eg the Csestriim, Urghals, leaches, etc) was inherently evil. When forced to decide between accepting their help or out-of-hand dismissing (or killing) them, they each struggled…..and I as the reader struggled too! Even looking back on the story, I’m still conflicted about how they handled those decisions.

Each of the characters have been swept up in the current of history; they’re forced into situations where there are no good, easy decisions, and they keep taking the most obvious path. But by the end of the book, they have each come to a point where they put their foot down and started making waves. Whether those decisions will ultimately be for harm or for good remains to be seen.

I am eagerly anticipating finding out what happens in the next book. This series has definitely found a place among my favorite fantasy books, and it’s very possible they’ll take the top spot. Part of that is the intricate plot and how it’s told, and part of it is that Brian Staveley is an author who really knows his stuff. I have time and again stepped back and looked at the fourth wall and been highly impressed and how he’s telling this story.

Re-read Rating
( ) definitely won’t read again
( ) might read again
(x) definitely would read again

Recommendation Rating
( ) wouldn’t recommend
( ) might recommend
(x) definitely would recommend

 

The Emperor’s Blades

The Emperor’s Blades
Book 1 of the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne
By Brian Staveley

TheEmperorsBladesA friend posted on Facebook a few weeks ago about how amazing his wife was to have gotten him the third book in the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne series. I hadn’t heard of the series, let alone the author, but it looked interesting, so I pinged our library to acquire the ebook (have I mentioned before how much I love my library?). A few days later, it was loaded onto my phone and I was quickly immersed.

What initially seemed like a typical intrigue plot (the Emperor has been slain and now his progeny are at risk; will they survive and keep the throne?), The Emperor’s Blades quickly set the tone of being much more. The Emperor had three children, two of which bore the flaming eyes required to rule, yet of those two, only one was male – he was thus the only one fit to take his father’s place.

Eight years prior, both boys were sent off for training. The heir, Kaden, was sent to a monastery to learn what his father could not teach him. Valyn was sent to train with the elite military group, the Kettral. Both are near to completing their training, but it is their sister, Adare, who has been thrust into the political turmoil surrounding the Emperor’s death. Both Kaden and Valyn are so immersed in their training that they aren’t allowed to grieve the passing of their father, and Adare is consumed by her rage at the murderer. Even still, all three of them uncover hints of a bigger threat – one that puts the entire human race at risk!

 

I really enjoyed this book. It’s obviously the first in an epic series, and the characters are both likable and flawed. I thought I had known the characters well enough to predict their actions, but for each of them, I was surprised at the choices they made. Those little twists really deepened the characters for me. I also liked both the Kettral (elite military group who command giant birds) and the Shin (a group secretly protecting humanity) and I think both of those groups are pretty well fleshed out in who they are and their importance in the world of Annur.

The part that struck a bad chord with me was the large pantheon of gods – there’s a lot of them, both young and old, and while the names are thrown around quite a bit, only a few are explained well enough for me to have understood who they are. But there’s ample room in later books to remedy this minor complaint.

In conclusion, I’m eagerly waiting for the library to pick up the next two ebooks so I can find out what happens next.

Re-read Rating
( ) definitely won’t read again
( ) might read again
(x) definitely would read again

Recommendation Rating
( ) wouldn’t recommend
( ) might recommend
(x) definitely would recommend

 

(My review of Book 2, The Providence of Fire)