The Emperor's Blades : Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne

  • by Brian Staveley
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • Series: Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne
  • 18 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, the emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.
Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, learning the enigmatic discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power he must master before it's too late.
An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral, elite soldiers who fly into battle on gigantic black hawks. But before he can set out to save Kaden, Valyn must survive one horrific final test.
At the heart of the empire, Minister Adare, elevated to her station by one of the emperor's final acts, is determined to prove herself to her people. But Adare also believes she knows who murdered her father, and she will stop at nothing - and risk everything - to see that justice is meted out.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Of the various new fantasy series, this is... fine

I like the Emperor's Blades, but, given the many new epic fantasy series of the past few years, this isn't at the top of the list. It is clearly in the grimdark (Ambercrombie, not Rothfuss) camp - horrible events, moral ambiguity, lots of death and fighting. While not bad, it doesn't seem to add much interesting to the genre, and has some questionable choices.

Some of the questionable choices are worldbuilding. While there are lots of nice touches (sky ninjas on giant birds!) a lot of the rest falls somewhere between cliche and nonsensical. On the cliche side, this book mostly consists of the training of two different heirs to the throne. One is being trained in a monastery with (surprise!) taciturn, koan-spouting monks and has to find the meaning of their zen-like lessons. The other is being given hardcore military training with (surprise!) taciturn, tough-as-nails officers and has to overcome bullies and physical challenges. On the nonsensical side, apparently neither of the heirs to the throne are trained in anything having to do with ruling the empire that they are inheriting. Instead, they are subject to conditions that, for no really good reason, seem designed to have a very good chance of killing them.

The other questionable choices have to do with tone. There is a third member of the royal family, a daughter. She, like many of the women in the novel, gets a lot less time on the page. And most of the women we encounter get abused, tortured, or worse. It adds to a sense of discomfort throughout the novel.

Nothing here is awful, and the reading is great, but the book seemed rather forced, with motivations seeming muddled and the world not really cohering into a whole. The action was often well-done, but I think there are better new fantasy series to read.
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- Ethan M. "On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through"

Doesn't compare with other fantasy books

I wanted to like this book very badly. It has a good writing style and interesting characters. The world is interesting. But it has several flaws--not fatal flaws, but serious nonetheless.

First is the completely gratuitous use of profanity and oaths. If you have read my reviews I seldom, if ever, complain about that unless it's supposed to be a YA or children's book. But everyone in this book swears like a truck-driver. It's like they are all in middle school. Part of the problem is that the author mixes the f-word and other words we know with many made-up oaths, like Kent-kissing etc. And everyone ALWAYS say Kent-kissing (Kent being a god). ALL OF THE TIME. I listen on my phone and if I heard someone say that one more time, I was going to throw it across the room! Argh!

The next problem comes with the plot itself. It's the story of three teenage or young-adult siblings who are dealing with life after the death of their Emperor father, although the two sons don't find out until well into the book.

One (a son) has been at a monastery for 8 years and seems only to be taught the really important skills he will need as the next Emperor in the last several months of being there when it's almost too late. Why? No explanation.

The next sibling (another son) has been in elite military training for 8 years. He seems to have fairly poor skills as well. After 8 years you would think he would be fairly good at some sort of military skill. It's not military school. This training is supposed to be like Navy Seal training. Other members are excellent at things like archery. Not him.

Hey, Emperor Dad: I don't think these 8-year plans are working!

That brings us to the third sibling (a girl). She has been with her father all of this time. She has learned the ins and outs of life in court. She knows all of the important players in the government. She makes some mistakes but it seems like she might make a good queen. But girls can't be queen. Only males can be Emperor. She was my favorite sibling even though she takes up maybe 5% of the book. Too bad. I hope that she is more featured in the sequels.

At various times I wanted to give this book 3 stars and maybe even 4 stars. But then I think of other books I have read this year and this book just does not compare with Robert V. S. Redick's or Daniel Abraham's stories. Or Shawn Speakman's debut novel. Never mind 5-star writers like Robin Hobb or Michael J. Sullivan. I gave them 4/5 stars so I couldn't bring myself to give this book more than 2.5.

The reader is very good, especially when reading the evil characters (for whatever reason). He helped make the book better.

But will I read the sequel? I don't know! Possibly. I do like the characters and the world is interesting. But I'm not sure it will be worth my time and money.
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- GLENNO "Game Developer"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-14-2014
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio