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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.
144 of 164 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about The Emperor's Blades? What did you like least?
This world has a very impressive military system. A great set of forces at play. But the author commits 4 crimes against the reader that need to be called out.1) "SURPRISE! THERE'S NO ENDING IN THIS BOOK! READ THE NEXT ONE TO FIND OUT HOW THIS STORY ENDS! JUST KIDDING! READ THE ONE AFTER THAT!" These are not books. They are chapters. That is to say, they END by way of the author simply halting his writing, without the resolution of a story, let alone the primary story, and in fact, fail utterly to resolve any arc at all. - This should obviously come with a warning label since the three books combine to tell a single story. Not a single story with 3 major advents in between... just a single story. Period. - The three novels before you, are not a trilogy. They are a single book. Know this. 2) The plot is moved forward through characters being suddenly and inexplicably unintelligent and inarticulate and essentially, volunteering for victim duty. - This happens regularly and without justification. "I insist on going with you into danger, where I will get in the way because I will then be able to watch the fight as a spectator. Yet 10 pages later I will in fact present the exact opposite argument regarding the same exact fight in the same location citing zero circumstantial change because I clearly just needed a reason to be in this building."3) Repeatedly reviewing one's own circumstances aloud with a tone of wonder and awe... is lazy and ineffectual. This is the dark side of the Show-Not-Tell relationship between characters and the audience. If you SHOW the audience an awe-inspiring thing, they will feel awe. Telling the audience to feel awe by reviewing how shockingly implausible the character's survival is or how far they've come since they left Default-Village-Land 5 times is like having the author tell you he thinks you can't remember the last 3 hours to your face. I find self-review for the purpose of INFORMING the audience that they have experienced drama and not to forget it... to be repulsive.4) Repetition. - The sort of repetition that happens when an author only has one tool at his disposal. In this case it's the phrase: "If he was frightened by the giant warrior before him... he didn't show it." "If she was bothered by the weapons being brandished around her... she didn't show it." "If he was frightened by this ___ he didn't show it." Seriously. I'm guessing 30 or 40 times? ... If she was bla bla bla... LET ME GUESS! She didn't show it!?
How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?
I would have taken the time necessary to make the primary female character morally consistent.
What about Simon Vance’s performance did you like?
The reader was flawless.
Did The Emperor's Blades inspire you to do anything?
84 of 96 people found this review helpful
Really enjoyed the story and performance. Characters well crafted and story is promising. Easy listen with good narration. I'm excited to see what else is in store.
Only criticism is maybe that there was a whole lot of scene setting and not a great deal happened, having said that I was gripped by the story and like the direction it takes. There is some conclusion which makes the end satisfying but leaves enough doors open to make me want to read more.
A really good start in my opinion.
Bring on the providence of fire!
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
I bought this book mainly because of the narrator. Who was, as expected, excellent. However the story was brilliant. The characters are really well written and brought to life. Can't praise this book enough.
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
Took me a few more chapters than I would normally like to get into it. Almost returned it in fact. But read reviews and decided to stick it out. Well worth it and couldn't stop listening in the end. Onto book 2 now.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
brilliant story real chataters. A book you can sink your teath in to. enjoyed every minute!! very good peformance by the reader !
4 of 4 people found this review helpful