A new grimdark fantasy for fans of Anna Smith-Spark, GRR Martin and Mark Lawrence.
The Emperor is dead. Long live the Empire.
General Bordan has a lifetime of duty and sacrifice behind him in the service of the Empire. But with rebellion brewing in the countryside, and assassins, thieves and politicians vying for power in the city, it is all Bordan can do to protect the heir to the throne.
Apprentice Magician Kyron is assigned to the late Emperor’s honour guard escorting his body on the long road back to the capital. Mistrusted and feared by his own people, even a magician’s power may fail when enemies emerge from the forests, for whoever is in control of the Emperor’s body, controls the succession.
Seven lives and seven deaths to seal the fate of the Empire.
I had mixed feelings about that book, mostly because I’m not a big fan of historical fiction, and although this book had fantasy elements to it, it was mostly an ode to the roman empire and grimdark fiction (which again am not an avid reader of). It reminded me of the movie “The Gladiator”. The initial battle in between the empire and tribes in the movie was well represented in the book. If you love fiction inspired by moments in history, this is definitely a novel for you.
If I had to put my finger on the element I’d improved in the book; it’s the pacing. We had a ton of big shocking events in the first act, then things slowed down for a good portion of Act 2 and the start of Act 3 to finally end in the last remaining pages of Act 3 with balls to the walls twists and turns and action. Although some might not see a problem here, I prefer when the pacing is dispersed throughout the book. It helps with maintaining interest throughout and at one point I was wondering if the book would pick up in intensity. Some might quit before they arrive at the big ending if it’s too much of a slow burn throughout Act 2. Again, some other readers might feel differently about this, especially readers who truly enjoy the historical/grimdark fiction subgenre.
However despite this there were really shining elements in this story. Like I already mentioned, the first half of the book didn’t stop hitting me with shocking events, and what an ending. Matthews’s prose was a breeze to read and not using an array of complex wording/sentences, therefore is highly accessible to readers of all ages. Also, the authenticity of the elements related to Roman history was accurate and brought a level of realism I truly enjoyed. Like I was experiencing the moments and learned a few things about the army of these times. The world-building was top-notch.
Characters were well done, especially the people driven by corruption in the narrative. When you hate a character to a point where you cheer terrible events happening to this character, it means the author is doing an amazing job in pushing the right buttons with said character. I especially like the conspiracy driven manipulations and backstabbing conversations. These debates and characters brought us back to a time where manipulative politics started.
So if you truly enjoy a conspiracy, politically driven fiction Roman novel, Seven Deaths Of An Empire is an impressive addition to your list and fans of Roman times and grimdark will get a blast with this book.