ARC Review + Giveaway (US/CAN): The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

17910124Rating: 5/5
Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Release Date: January 14, 2014
Publication House: Tor Books
Number of pages: 480
Source: ARC from Netgalley
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When the emperor of Annur is murdered, his children must fight to uncover the conspiracy—and the ancient enemy—that effected his death.

Kaden, the heir apparent, was for eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, where he learned the inscrutable discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power which Kaden must master before it’s too late. When an imperial delegation arrives to usher him back to the capital for his coronation, he has learned just enough to realize that they are not what they seem—and enough, perhaps, to successfully fight back.

Meanwhile, in the capital, his sister Adare, master politician and Minister of Finance, struggles against the religious conspiracy that seems to be responsible for the emperor’s murder. Amid murky politics, she’s determined to have justice—but she may be condemning the wrong man.

Their brother Valyn is struggling to stay alive. He knew his training to join the Kettral— deadly warriors who fly massive birds into battle—would be arduous. But after a number of strange apparent accidents, and the last desperate warning of a dying guard, he’s convinced his father’s murderers are trying to kill him, and then his brother. He must escape north to warn Kaden—if he can first survive the brutal final test of the Kettral


Reading Blood Song by Anthony Ryan introduced me to the world of high fantasy literature, where we are given new worlds with cultures and societies of their own which are oftentimes accompanied by magic and warfare. I enjoyed reading that book so much that I vowed to myself to read more from this genre, as I have developed an unsatiable thirst for similar themes. I’ve tried many, and although I’ve stumbled upon a lot of gems, not a lot of them measured up to the mark.

Of course, that was before I read The Emperor’s Blades.

Not that I am going to compare the two. Blood Song and The Emperor’s Blades are highly different from each other, but both made me feel emotions that I notice I rarely get from books now – excitement, anxiousness, trepidation – for fictional characters characters that feel utterly real. Both books have what many others lack – a moving, intricate storyline, complex characterization, beautiful prose and writing, awesome delivery, balanced pacing, among many others.

The Emperor’s Blades is told from three point-of-views: Valyn, the youngest, who is undergoing training to be a part of the Kettral, a super elite group of people who use gigantic birds to do their missions; Adare, the only girl among the siblings, who stayed with her father to oversee the politics and other what-have-you in the palace; and we have Kaden, the oldest of the three, his father’s successor, currently isolated from the world and training with the monks. Usually, I’m not very keen on reading from more than one perspective, but the characters in this book became so alive and dynamic that I’ve come to look forward to each and everyone of them. You know that feeling where the characters are just so well-written that despite their not being real, you see them like lifelong friends? That’s what happened to me here. I loved Valyn and Kaden and could feel their anxiety and fear of the future seeping from the pages. Be it running away from creatures of dark caves, or enduring hard and long lashes from a seemingly strict and discipline-minded monk, I felt for them every step of the way. Deep in my heart, I wanted them to succeed every challenge that life would throw their way, wanted them to grow and get stronger and better to show their detractors who are the bosses.

While Adare was not given enough screen time, I found her a strong female character – independent with a bit of a rebellious side, intelligent and cautious, although she would sometimes be carried away by her emotions. I honestly found her a breath of fresh air, especially since in this genre, many women are depicted as weak, damsels in distress, or prostitutes. That’s why it made me really happy to see an intellectual woman in a harsh world who can ward off greedy and shady politicans and ministers by wit alone. Hopefully in the succeeding books, we will see more of her and what her role is in the grander scheme of things.

As for the plot?

…it’s amazing. Honestly, I don’t even have enough words for it as I know it is just huge. The first book alone only gave us the tip of the iceberg, more of a laying out of the bigger picture, and I was already blown away. There is a lot of court intrigue, betrayals, evil people lurking in the shadows, and creatures dangerous beyond your wildest dreams… and I’m not even sure that encompasses all of it. Everything is written intricately, like there’s significance even in the littlest and simplest of details. There’s so much to know and explore, so much depth and richness to unfold, that I am shivering in anticipation.

I want to talk about it, but I can’t. I want you all to experience the intricacies of this novel yourselves. When you have, come back here and let’s discuss in the comments ;-)

Overall, The Emperor’s Blades is a very cool book, an awesome fantasy novel that fans of the genre should get their hands on as soon as it’s out. Trust me, you’d want to pick this up. This book = epic happiness.


Luckily, we do not end there! On the 15th of January, the author, Brian Staveley, will be gracing us with his presence through a guest post! But before that, Tor Books has generously offered to give away three finished copies of this lovely, awesome baby to three US/CANADIAN residents. Same rules as always!

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A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena


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  1. says

    Before anything else, may I suggest for you to try Marchetta’s High Fantasy series, The Lumatere Chronicles? That is if you’re still on your search for another awesome HF. And if you want to branch out to Epic Fantasies, I would like to suggest Sanderson’s Mistborn series. Hahahaha.

    But anyway, I’d like to give this book a try for all the reasons that you’ve mentioned plus the fact that it belongs to my top 1 favorite genre. xD I am interested to know though how Staveley fared in terms of of world building?

    Lovely review, Faye!
    Charlotte @ Thoughts and Pens recently posted…Book Review: The Forbidden StoneMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Oooh, I actually tried Sanderson’s Mistborn… but I kind got spoiler-ed so I kinda felt disinterested to continue haha. Will definitely get Manchetta, though!

      World-building-wise, I think Staveley nailed it pretty well. He left out some things, but we have a pretty clear idea what it could be, and just the implication of THAT thing sends shivers to my spine :P

  2. says

    I WANT EPIC HAPPINESS! I saw this book back when Cory reviewed it but she didn’t tell me about the epic happiness. But seriously, Faye, will you now be the ambassador of this one instead of Blood Song? :P I’m thinking of buying these two together for the summer. Such long, dense books make me spooked.
    Stuti recently posted…Girl Saves BoyMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Epic happiness for the win! Haha. I can’t leave Blood Song, Stuti – that’s still my most favorite High Fantasy book! The Emperor’s Blades is a very close second, though ;)

      Will buy Manchetta then maybe we can fangirl shortly after? hhihihi

  3. Gammonstark says

    Thanks for the chance at a free book. Love all the reviews. My only fear is that I will spend more time reading reviews than reading books! :-P

  4. says

    Unfortunately, the book didn’t grab me in the first seven preview chapters. However, I waited patiently (as if I were buried alive for 10 days) for the book to come out. Something I should point out from your review, Adar is the oldest of the three children. Also, we disagree on the “amazing” plot. There are large holes. Many of the women stereotypes which you dislike are evident (and leaned upon) in the book itself. Prostitutes? Check. Women needing to be rescued? Check. Women valued more so as objects rather than strong equal figures? Check. Even Adar is laughed at. Even she dislikes being a woman at one point (the trial sequence is coming to mind here). Also, the blurb says she is brilliant. Yet, she doesn’t try to figure out why her father left her a book until we as readers have gone through two coming of age stories. I was drained. There were elements I liked; the way magic was presented, the attention to detail for the sons’ training, the different types of ethnicities. Fight scenes were vague in some respects. I wanted more information about the various styles. Too many of the characters felt flat and lacked depth. Still, good review all the same.