The Emperor’s Blades
by Brian Staveley
Tor, 478 pp.
Last issue I praised a new fantasy novel (American Craftsmen) for it’s originality in both concept and execution. Today I review a new fantasy novel that has absolutely nothing innovative about it, yet I still enjoyed the heck out of it and for regular readers of this column you know how I usually feel about fantasy. The Emperor’s Blades, by newcomer Brian Staveley, is a traditional epic fantasy and the beginning of what promises to be a lengthy saga.
The story follows the three offspring (two sons and a daughter) of a slain emperor. Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent the past eight years in a distant mountain range studying under an ancient sect of monks. Also for the past eight years, Valyn has been training with the empire’s most elite soldiers, the Kettral. Adare, the daughter, has stayed in the capital city and, upon her father’s assassination, is elevated to the role of Finance Minister. Although we get hundreds of pages of training and character development for Kaden and Valyn, there are only a few chapters given to Adare—mostly dealing with the death of her father and the execution of his assassin. She does, however, have one of my favorite scenes in the novel and ends the story in possession of a key piece of information so I’m hoping that she’ll play a greater role in the sequel. There’s always a need for more good, strong female characters in science fiction and fantasy and I hope that Staveley seizes the opportunity to give us one.
There is (of course) a grand battle at the climax of the story that brings both brothers together and hints at an ancient threat that should serve as the main plot thread for future volumes, however the primary story arc is one of personal growth. We follow both sons through their training and watch as they have to master everything they’ve been learning in order to survive the inevitable conflict at the story’s climax. And that is the aspect of the story that will draw you in: watching the boys learn from their mistakes, accept their losses, and grow into men that can rule an empire. The second book in the series, The Providence of Fire, is due out in January, 2015.