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 an 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?
I’d been hearing about Brian Staveley for a little while now and with the release of The Empire’s Ruin, and the heaping praise that book has received, I figured it was time to finally pick up his first trilogy.
The Emperor’s Blades is a fantastic start to the series and one which I devoured in just a few days. The book centers on three siblings in line for the emperor’s throne and are each spread across the continent learning and training for their future roles in the empire.
The book mainly centers on the two boys of the group, Kaden and Valyn. Kaden is in direct line for the throne and is training at a far northern monastery focusing on channeling his inner powers. Most of the philosophy of the book is found in this section and it was a bit different and refreshing to read about the ‘heir’ that wasn’t the most powerful fighter or super political savvy.
His characterization is well done, and his growth throughout the novel is well paced and realistic. The one thing that stood out to me however was that his friendships and relationships didn’t seem as fleshed out as it could have – especially for someone who had been there for years.
Valyn, Kaden’s older brother, is the easy stand out of the cast, however. He is in training with the Kettral, an elite force for the empire, to become one of the deadliest fighters in the world. His chapters were constantly engaging, and his friendships were real and varied. The issues I had with the Kaden stuff not being as developed was a non-issue here.
Valyn is in training and with that comes many of the training school tropes, from bullies, to fighting arenas, to deadly trials and forming a team. However, I’m a huge sucker for these settings and all of the characters were well developed and the actions scenes were well written and visceral. There’s also a compelling mystery simmering in the background to all of Valyn’s story.
Which brings me to the third member of the POV cast, Adare. She’s the oldest of the three siblings and has been tasked to stay home and learn how to control the politics of the empire. I really enjoyed her chapters; the politics were interesting and the events taking place are world shaping and very engaging. However, there’s almost none of it. There are only a few short chapters with her at the center and I thought her main plot was going to be rolled into the next book. But most of the plot is wrapped up by the end. There’s some major twists and revelations which I think could have been much more impactful with a bit more development. But I still liked what was here.
Finally, the world and the empire itself is interesting and varied. The creatures that are encountered, the politics, and the giant winged birds the Kettral ride all make for some great lore and world building.
In the end, I’m super excited to read the sequel and can’t wait to see where this goes from here. Highly recommended, and if you’re a fan of the warrior school trope, this is a can’t miss.