Review: The Emperor’s Blades by

September 16, 2014 4.5 stars, Book Review 10 ★★★★½

Review: The Emperor’s Blades byThe Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
Series: Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #1
Published by Tor Books on January 14, 2014
Genres: Adult SFF, Fantasy
Pages: 480
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.

Book one in an epic fantasy of intrigue and empire, for fans of George R. R. Martin and Douglas Hulick.

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?


Let’s start with the rating.  4.5 out of 5 stars, I can’t wait for book 2.

Stavely really nailed it on a lot of levels with The Emperor’s Blades. Stavely opens with a reverse baker’s boy gambit. Kaden, the heir to the throne knows he’s the heir, but somehow he’s been forced into the life of an ascetic monk (rather an acolyte, because after 8 years of grueling study, he’s nowhere near being ready for promotion.) His Umial teachers give him humiliating tasks and if he fails or balks, the penance is torturous.

When Kaden’s father, the emperor of half of the known world (map included), is assassinated in a seemingly ham-handed plot, things get interesting for Kaden, his brother Valyn and older sister, Adare (more on them later). They’re all coming of age (I think Valyn’s the youngest at 17) and coming into their separate strengths.

While Kaden was learning the seemingly worthless arts and crafts of the Shin monks (like the opening credits to the Kung Fu series without the weapons or cool dragon brands in the forearms) his brother was learning to be a giant-bird-riding-superninja called a Kettral. The Kettral can kill with extreme efficiency (serving as the black ops forces of the empire) and they have CSI level skills in reading a crime scene.

Now comes my only criticism of the book. The female characters, while plentiful, are very two dimensional…The princes have spent the last 8 years learning to be a mystical monk and a deadly destroyer, while the princess has been learning to princess. It’s readily apparent that the author, like most of us, has no idea what women are like.  Adare doesn’t really know how to be a princess after 8 years of tutelage and makes blunder after blunder. The other female characters of the book are similarly as “thin” as the clothes that they wear. The Kettral are a gender-integrated force, proving how enlightened the Annurian empire is.

Valyn’s closest friend Ha Lin is noted mostly for her GREAT ASS (she’s Asian), while another of the crew Gwenna has the FABULOUS BOOBS (the red head) and Annick, the gifted archer has BODY OF A 15 YEAR OLD BOY.  Like most red-blooded Americans, I wish Stavely would have spent a few more pages describing Ha Lin and Gwenna and maybe thrown in a cat-fight for good measure (with ripped clothes).

Casting (female characters):

Gwenna = Christina Hendricks
Ha Lin = Grace Park
Adare = Sophie Turner aka Sansa Stark
Pyrre = Sophia Vergara
Annick = Ellen Page

Casting (male characters):

Kaden = Monk (young and skinny)
Valyn = SEAL soldier (young and buff)
Tan = Monk (old and buff)

TL;DR read The Emperor’s Blases if you like epic fantasy with a little coming of age story mixed in.


Father of four, who spending most waking hours working as an executive at a health care company. He is often cranky and sometimes a know-it-all. He has a unique relationship with books. Alan cut his teeth reading science fiction (Niven, Pohl, Asimov, Clarke, Card) stolen from his father's bookshelf. In 7th grade he discovered Anne McCaffery and Piers Anthony which expanded his horizons into fantasy. At 16, a young lady suggested that Anne Rice writes some "hot" books. His beautiful bride Maggie introduced him to PNR (Laurell K. Hamilton). His guilty pleasure is "cotton candy" pulp fiction from the 50s and 60s (Edgar Rice Burroughs).

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10 Responses to “Review: The Emperor’s Blades by”

  1. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I enjoyed this, but not quite as much as you did. And I agree, the female characters were a weakness. Actually I felt almost all the secondary characters were very two dimensional, defined more by their prevalent emotion than anything else. But, I am still really looking forward to the second book because regardless of any complaints I have, it was a very fun read.
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