Today I’m so excited to be taking part in the blog tour for The Empire’s Ruin, thanks to Black Crow PR and UK Tor! This was such a fantastic opportunity to get my hands on a brilliantly chunky book that all fans of epic fantasy would adore. Don’t be too intimidated by the size! I sped through this book and truly fell in love with the characters, story, and world within. Although it’s set in the world of Brian Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series, I found it incredibly easy to become involved as someone new to the setting. If a disgraced warrior, a priest of love with a dark past, and a monk turned con-artist sound like characters you’re going to love, you need to check this out.
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 . . .
The Kettral were once elite soldiers who rode hawks into battle, but now their numbers are falling, and the empire is weakening. Gwenna Sharpe was a lauded commander, but after an assignment goes wrong, she loses everything. Faced with a mission to travel to an unknown land, she’s the Kettral’s last hope of survival.
In the city where it all went wrong, a priest of love is fighting against increased xenophobia and hostility. As his temple is burnt to the ground, he might have to rely on the skills he’s hidden deep within to survive.
In the heart of the empire, a monk turned con-man tries to swindle his way into the Emperor’s good graces. He attempts to convince her that he can use the Kenta gates, an instantaneous mode of travel that tends to kill those who try to pass through them. Unfortunately, she wants a demonstration.
These three perspectives tell their own stories before combining in unpredictable ways.
The scale of this book is fantastic, exactly what I want from epic fantasy, but it also doesn’t feel overwhelming. The characters’ stories stretch themselves across the world from a smaller-scale turbulent city to a grand adventure over the seas to unknown lands. This book has everything. I was worried that I’d feel a bit lost, having not read the previous series set in this world, but Brian Staveley knows how to make his writing beginner-friendly without losing the depth of worldbuilding that I craved. There is a brilliant diversity in culture, setting, beliefs, goals, and conflict in The Empire’s Ruin; the world felt bursting with life. You’ve got adventure, you’ve got battle scenes, you’ve got unique worldbuilding elements, you’ve got compelling characters: what more could you need?
Despite the scope and epic feel of this book, it remains incredibly character-driven. It’s rare to find a book where each perspective is as brilliant as the last, but I honestly wouldn’t be able to pick a favourite here. The three stories this book delves into are very different, but they combine to complement the themes and goals of the novel. At its heart, this book is about belief, loyalty, and failure. The foundations of each character are threatened; they go through intense character development and come out the other side as something they can’t quite recognise. These characters nudged themselves into my heart, and I can’t stop thinking about them.
One character that stood out to me was Gwenna Sharpe. She was once a Kettral commander who catastrophically failed one of her missions. What I found so interesting about her perspective is that she’s a legendary warrior who is stripped of her belief in herself. The struggles, uncertainty, and depression she struggled with throughout this book were intensely emotional. You can’t help but root for her. The tension in her scenes was palpable as she’s disregarded and disgraced over and over by Jonon lem Jonon. Jonon lem Jonon is the perfect character to hate. Brian Staveley knows how to elicit emotion because I was ready to step into the book and get ready to fight. Gwenna and Jonon were so frustrating to read about but in a way that was entertaining and compelling.
I could write about all the character arcs and plot points in this book until my fingers go numb, but to avoid heading into spoiler territory, I’ll just say you should find out for yourself. If you love detailed, epic fantasy with a deftly handled plot and wonderful, difficult character development, you should give this one a go.
CW: violence, gore, death, sexual assault (threatened explicitly), sexual assault (non-detailed), xenophobia, religious fanaticism, suicidal thoughts.
(Thanks to Black Crow PR and Tor for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review)
Brian Staveley is the author of the award-winning fantasy trilogy, The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. After teaching literature, philosophy, history, and religion for more than a decade, he began writing fiction. His first book, The Emperor’s Blades, won the David Gemmell Morningstar Award, the Reddit Stabby for best debut, and scored semi-finalist spots in the Goodreads Choice Awards in two categories: epic fantasy and debut. The entire trilogy, which includes The Providence of Fire and The Last Mortal Bond has been translated into over ten languages worldwide.
Brian lives on a steep dirt road in the mountains of southern Vermont, where he divides his time between fathering, writing, husbanding, splitting wood, skiing, and adventuring, not necessarily in that order. He can be found on twitter at @brianstaveley, facebook as brianstaveley, and Google+ as Brian Staveley.
The Empire’s Ruin is out now! There’s never been a better time to grab a copy!