Review: THE LAST MORTAL BOND by Brian Staveley (Tor)

StaveleyB-CUT3-LastMortalBondUSThe highly-anticipated conclusion to the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy

DEATH IS NEAR, ARMIES ARE GATHERED, AND THE FUTURE RESTS ON A KNIFE-EDGE 

The Annurian Empire is losing a war on two fronts — and it’s unclear who’s in command. Adare is stationed in the thick of battle, calling herself Emperor. However, she can’t hold back the nomadic Urghul forces forever. She needs her brilliant general, Ran il Tornja, but will he betray her again?

Adare’s brother Kaden is the true heir, yet he’ll accept a republic to save his divided people. And he faces something more terrible than war. He’s unmasked Ran il Tornja as a remnant of an ancient race, one that attempted to destroy mankind. The general now plans to finish what they started. Kaden has also discovered that capricious gods walk the earth in human guise — and their agendas may seal the fates of all.

In early 2014, I finally got around to reading Brian Staveley’s first two novelsThe Emperor’s Blades and The Providence of Fire. I was blown away — I read them back-to-back, which is something I haven’t done with a fantasy series since Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, and Peter V. Brett’s The Desert Spear and The Daylight War. Staveley’s writing, his characters, and the fantastically composed and paced narrative just pulled me through. I was hooked. I still think the two novels are a fantastic example of what modern fantasy can be. (Seriously, go read them.) I had a rather different reaction to The Last Mortal BondContinue reading

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Guest Post: “Fire Lookout, Monk, Water-Skier, Teacher; the Best Profession for a Writer” by Brian Staveley

StaveleyB-AuthorPicI got an email a few weeks ago from a young man just graduating from college, an aspiring writer, who wanted to know which careers I thought might be most conducive to the writing life. I suspect the answer might be Fire Lookout. Or maybe Monk. Professional Writer seems promising, at least at first glance, but turns out to entail all kinds of stuff that’s not actually writing.

In fact, I’m not in the greatest position to answer this question. Aside from college stints as a waiter and a rock climbing instructor and a short time immediately after graduation in which I worked at a halfway house for convicted felons, the only job I’ve ever had, the one I held from my early twenties until I quit to write full time, was teaching. For all I know, Professional Water Skier might facilitate the hell out of some good writing, but I can only talk teaching. Continue reading

Review: THE PROVIDENCE OF FIRE by Brian Staveley (Tor)

StaveleyB-CUT2-ProvidenceOfFireUKAn excellent sequel to The Emperor’s Blades

War is coming, secrets multiply and betrayal waits in the wings…

The Annurian Empire’s ruling family must be vigilant, as the conspiracy against them deepens. Having discovered her father’s assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies. But few trust her, until she seems marked by the people’s goddess in an ordeal of flame.

As Adare struggles to unite Annur, unrest breeds rival armies – then barbarian hordes threaten to invade. And unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn has fallen in with forces mustering at the empire’s borders. The terrible choices they face could make war between them inevitable.

Fighting his own battles is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with two strange companions. While imperial forces prepare to defend a far-distant front, Kaden’s actions could save the empire, or destroy it.

Coming so soon after my review for the first book in the series, it’s a little tricky to think of how to write this review. Most of what I loved about The Emperor’s Blades is true for The Providence of Fire: Staveley’s writing and storytelling are great, his characters interesting and nuance. However, all of these elements have improved for this second novel. If you haven’t read Staveley yet, then you are missing out. This is a must read series. Continue reading

Excerpt: THE PROVIDENCE OF FIRE by Brian Staveley (Tor)

Staveley-2-TheProvidenceOfFire

As I prep this post, I’m in the middle of reading Brian Staveley‘s debut, The Emperor’s Blades – the first novels in the author’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series. It’s certainly very good. It’s sequel, The Providence of Fire is now out in the UK and North America, published by Tor Books. To whet your appetites, Tor has allowed me to share this excerpt from the first chapter. But first, here’s the synopsis:

War is coming, secrets multiply and betrayal waits in the wings…

The Annurian Empire’s ruling family must be vigilant, as the conspiracy against them deepens. Having discovered her father’s assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies. But few trust her, until she seems marked by the people’s goddess in an ordeal of flame.

As Adare struggles to unite Annur, unrest breeds rival armies – then barbarian hordes threaten to invade. And unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn has fallen in with forces mustering at the empire’s borders. The terrible choices they face could make war between them inevitable.

Fighting his own battles is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with two strange companions. While imperial forces prepare to defend a far-distant front, Kaden’s actions could save the empire, or destroy it.

Now, on to the excerpt! Continue reading

Review: THE EMPEROR’S BLADES by Brian Staveley (Tor)

Staveley-1-TheEmperorsBladesUKA superb, must-read debut epic fantasy

The circle is closing. The stakes are high. And old truths will live again…

The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must prepare to unmask a conspiracy. His son Valyn, training for the empire’s deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. And after several ‘accidents’ and a dying soldier’s warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can act, he must survive the mercenaries’ brutal final initiation.

The Emperor’s daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father’s murderer in the capital. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice. Lastly Kaden, heir to the empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God’s disciples teach their harsh ways, which Kaden must master to unlock ancient powers. But when an imperial delegation arrives, has he learnt enough to keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?

There was much hype around The Emperor’s Blades when it was released last year. Naturally, being the ornery and difficult fellow, I decided to wait. And wait. As the weeks passed, I became distracted by other things and other new books. Then I moved to Canada. After the arrival of the sequel, The Providence of Fire, I decided I had waited long enough, and started reading The Emperor’s Blades (wow, that was one long, convoluted tale that was utterly unimportant and uninteresting…). And then I kept reading. Well into the night, multiple times. With only a couple of niggles, I can sum things up thus: Believe the hype. This is a great novel and the beginning of something special. Continue reading

Upcoming: “The Emperor’s Blades” by Brian Staveley (Tor UK & US)

Staveley-TheEmperorsBlades

I thought I had missed all mention of this book until today, when Tor UK unveiled the new cover art (left). The Emperor’s Blades is the first book in Brian Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, and it sounds pretty interesting. As it turned out, though, I’d caught a glimpse of the US cover art a couple of months back (on the right). Of the two, I think I prefer the UK cover, but the US one isn’t exactly hideous. The UK one is very, well, “typical” of the way fantasy and medieval-fiction covers have been developing over the past couple of years, but I do like the colouring.

Check out the synopsis…

The circle is closing. The stakes are high. And old truths will live again.

The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy. His son Valyn, training for the empire’s deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. He expected a challenge, but after several ‘accidents’ and a dying soldier’s warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can take action, he must survive the mercenaries’ brutal final initiation.

Meanwhile, the Emperor’s daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father’s murderer in the capital itself. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice. And Kaden, heir to the empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God’s disciples teach their harsh ways – which Kaden must master to unlock their ancient powers. When an imperial delegation arrives, he’s learnt enough to perceive evil intent. But will this keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?

Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades is due to be published in January 2014. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.