The Emperor's Blades
I love fantasy, but prefer a certain kind of fantasy, high or epic fantasy with well-developed characters and intricate (lengthy) story lines.
Favorite authors include: Kate Elliot, Robin Hobb, George R. R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Tolkien. Long and involved novels with great world-building, characters who breathe, and plenty of adventure draw me into another world.
(I like other authors and fantasy genres as well, including a number of YA Fantasy writers who are excellent, but the longer and more complex the fantasy, the better I like it.)
On to the review.
The Emperor of Annur had two sons and one daughter. According to tradition, when the boys were old enough, Kaden, the eldest and heir to the throne, was sent to a monastery to train with the monks, and Valyn, his slightly younger brother, was sent to train with an elite and deadly branch of the military, the Kettral.
Their older sister Adare remained in the palace, but received an education in the ways of the court, and by watching her father, Adare learned much about palace politics and governance. As it turns out, Adare will need to control her temper and use all of her knowledge and skill to keep the throne for Kaden.
The story moves back and forth from Valyn and his training, to Kaden and the monastery, and to Adare in the Dawn Palace, although Adare's chapters are less frequent.
Kaden, busy with menial chores and hard labor, wonders what he is supposed to be learning besides making pottery, tending goats, and disciplining his mind. He worries that he is not learning about how to govern an empire and that he cannot achieve the Vaniate.
After eight years isolated from the palace, Valyn learns that his father suspects a conspiracy and that the men his father has sent to secure Valyn's safety have all been murdered.
Shortly thereafter, the news of his father's death arrives, and Valyn realizes that both he and Kaden are also targets for the unknown enemy.
Valyn has passed his final trial and become a Kettral, that elite and deadly group of soldiers, but Kaden has not quite completed his training with the monks and has yet to become aware of the importance of all he has learned.
Determined to rescue Kaden from the distant monastery in the largely uncharted Bone Mountains, Valyn and his recalcitrant wing crew must find a way to work together to succeed.
Their enemies have other plans for the empire, and they do not include Kaden or Valyn.
Staveley's world building allows the reader to become immersed in the discipline in the mountain monastery, the danger of Kettral training, and the disquieting disorder of the palace after the emperor is murdered.
The characters, even minor characters, are developed and believable; the plot involves plenty of action and suspense; the stakes are high, and the characters must make choices that are neither easy nor appealing.
The protagonists are not perfect, and they make mistakes, but they keep trying to do the right thing. They are products of their culture and their environment, not just their parents. Thus we have three children born to the same parents, but whose upbringing and environment have greatly differed, resulting in three individuals uniquely suited to battle the evil that threatens their empire.
I didn't want this one to end and eagerly await the next in this series.
High Fantasy. Jan. 15, 2014. Print length: 480 pages.