Title: The Empire’s Ruin
Author: Brian Staverley
Series: Ashes of the Unhewn Throne
Release Date: 8/7/21 (UK)
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 48
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free finished and signed ohysical copy from Tor via Black Crow PR in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
From Goodreads: One soldier will bear the hopes of an empire
The Kettral were the glory and despair of the Annurian Empire – elite soldiers who rode war hawks into battle. Now the Kettral’s numbers have dwindled and the great empire is dying. Its grip is further weakened by the failure of the kenta gates, which granted instantaneous access to its vast lands.
To restore the Kettral, one of its soldiers is given a mission. Gwenna Sharpe must voyage beyond the edge of the known world, to the mythical nesting grounds of the giant war hawks. The journey will take her through a land that warps and poisons all living things. Yet if she succeeds, she could return a champion, rebuild the Kettral to their former numbers – and help save the empire. The gates are also essential to the empire’s survival, and a monk turned con-artist may hold the key to unlocking them.
What they discover will change them and the Annurian Empire forever – if they survive. For deep within the southern reaches of the land, a malevolent force is stirring . . .
Oh how to describe this epic tome! I haven’t read any of Brian Staveley’s work before and was a little worried about jumping into a new companion series for such a well established world but I needn’t have worried. There is never a time throughout the pages where I felt I was missing a bit of knowledge or lore so this can completely be read on its own. But the writing is so good and the world so well crafted I am definitely add The Chronicles of the Unhewn throne to my TBR.
Ok This book. It throws you straight into action and excitement that I was hooked almost immediately. Staveley manages to mingle action and worldbuilding seamlessly, that I never really felt I was in a info dump of background lore, instead found the pages turning to learn more and more. The main plot does build slowly, telling the stories of three perspectives in different parts of this world before slowly drawing them closer and closer together. I enjoyed all the the POVs and found their internal stories interesting to follow also.
It does suffer, action wise, a little from a saggy middle. We have one POV on a long journey while she is trapped below deck, we have another POV having been taken prisoner and forced to go through gladiatorial training and at this point in the book the POV of our conman-monk are few and far between. The combination of two POVs being prisoners slowed the momentum at the start of the book and just felt that it dragged a little too long. the static nature didn’t give us a lot of world building or action to get the pages turning. However, did get a lot of insight into the Characters.
The POV characters are really varied and have such different outlooks that the swtiches in perspectives and stories are really refreshing. Gwenna is sassy as all hell, a bit of a chip on her shoulder, and while she does spend a lot of time wallowing in self-pity I really was invested in her to succeed. Ruc and Bien are an awesome couple, with both grit and grace but I loved there determination and devotion most of all. Akiil our con-man monk was quite mysterious at first but again had a little bit of a cheeky streak to him that I really like in fantasy characters. All had really interesting back stories that also had a lot of influence in driving the plot. This gives them all deeply complex arcs to their own stories that are extremely well written.
For me though its the world! The worldbuilding is immensely detailed and interesting from its history to its religions, its geography to the varying cultural practices. This is why I want to dive into the original trilogy as I want to know more of it all. There are so many subtle little details, the political machinations, the rumours and misinformation that collects about different cultures, what aspects are true and which are not. All of these little details build a world that is so easy to imagine and it really houses the plot well.
Overall, this is a great epic fantasy that was a really enjoyable read and I will happily continue to find out what happens next.