Review: The Empire’s Ruin (Ashes of the Unhewn Throne #1) by Brian Staveley


Rating: 10/10

Synopsis

Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor’s Blades, gives readers the first book in a new epic fantasy trilogy based in the world of his popular series the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, The Empire’s Ruin.

The Annurian Empire is disintegrating. The advantages it used for millennia have fallen to ruin. The ranks of the Kettral have been decimated from within, and the kenta gates, granting instantaneous travel across the vast lands of the empire, can no longer be used.

In order to save the empire, one of the surviving Kettral must voyage beyond the edge of the known world through a land that warps and poisons all living things to find the nesting ground of the giant war hawks. Meanwhile, a monk turned con-artist may hold the secret to the kenta gates.

But time is running out. Deep within the southern reaches of the empire and ancient god-like race has begun to stir.

What they discover will change them and the Annurian Empire forever. If they can survive. 

Review

Thank you to Jamie-Lee-Nardone and Stephen Haskins at Tor UK for providing me a review copy. All thoughts are mine and mine only.

I need more of this. I cannot for one, accept that this is the entire story. It feels like I’ve barely scratched the surface, as I’ve uncovered something more mysterious and deep in this fascinating world. No doubt in mind, this is the sequel trilogy to the Chronicles of the Unhewn Thrones of which I enjoyed reading a lot about. It features many old and new characters from this world, and instead of solely focusing on Annur, it gives us glimpses of the entire world that this book offers. With a whopping 1045 pages, it is massive. It’s something that should be celebrated. Therefore, we have an epic fantasy.

Following onwards, this novel features the POV of three characters: Gwenna, who is part of the Kettral, the Annurian Empire’s elite force. She ends up deciding to abandon her loyal soldiers in a daring raid at Dombang and pays up the price for it. What she uncovers throughout this novel is a mysterious secret that will astound you. I was guessing; I knew what was coming, and I could guess it because I’ve read the first three books of the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne. However, I would recommend reading it to get an understanding of the events that happen. Let me summarise it in this way: The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne focuses on a declining Annurian Empire. Five years onwards with the Empire’s Ruin, it’s declining at much steady pace than you can think. The events that happen there directly relate to the events that happen in Empire’s Ruin. Moving back to Gwenna, I didn’t like her character so much in the beginning. I despised her ability not to fight and stand up, even though she has the skills of a highly trained warrior. At the end, I understood her motivations and what she did. She is the epitome of the Broken Warrior seeking redemption. Then we have Ruc the Priest in Dombang, who is essentially uncovering his truth about who he really should worship. There’s an entire story arc for that, although unrelated, was a refreshing read. And we have Akill, who I seriously think could have his spin-off series as a Shin Monk. This monk is perhaps the bravest monk to live in this world. He goes to extents that no ordinary person can go through.

The action sequences are well written, and the battle scenes are also well done. Part of the reason I loved this novel was the naval combat and the descriptions of storms and the brig. Gwenna, while being sent by Emperor Adare to go to the mysterious land of Menkiddoc under Admiral Jonon, encounters the Manjari navy. Jonon defeats them, but not, of course, with Gwenna trying to prove she can do more. In the end, it ends up like a bloody mess. She meets the Captain of the Manjari Ship, Dhar, in the brig. There are philosophical conversations, there are engaging debates, and Dhar is a more secretive character than he lets on to be. Same for the Historian that accompanies Gwenna. Watch out for the Historian, by all means, just keep an eye out for him. I cannot tell you how engaged I was having reading Gwenna’s story in this arc when she went with this arc. There is brutality, there is a lot of cussing, there are a lot of truths and lies to be uncovered. There are trustworthy characters, and untrustworthy characters. There are complete story arcs, and I think the POVs work well enough to compliment one another. Some nitpicks I had were that some scenes were too long, and too many scenes felt on the edge of a cliff-hanger sometimes, but it’s a grand dark epic fantasy. Not every single page will be perfect. Fantasies will have their own strengths and weaknesses in a way. I was engaged in a story that made me want to uncover the truth and that’s what this dark fantasy presented it to me. I don’t feel this is a benevolent world, because benevolence for the people of this world is, of course, wrought by elites and corrupted priests. But somewhere, there is still goodness in this world. Somewhere there is. Somewhere, a broken warrior may become attached to a small girl, that may reveal who she can become, a better version of herself than what she pretends herself to be. I wanted to see more of Akill. But the focus of book 2 should be on Gwenna. I need to know more. I just need to know more.

Amazing writing, great combat, I loved every second! Amazing!

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