Review: The Emperor’s Blades

The Emperor's BladesBy Brian Staveley

Macmillan, out now

The three children of a murdered Emperor must find ways to survive so they can uncover the truth about his death…

I’ve grown to enjoy epic fantasy tales considerably more over the past couple of years after working on some of them as copyeditor or proof reader, and slightly to my surprise I’ve found myself picking them up for pleasure as well. Brian Staveley’s first volume doesn’t chart particularly new ground, but it does handle the various tropes in some interesting ways, and I suspect that even those far more grounded in the genre than I will find much to enjoy in this novel.

The three children – two boys, one girl – each have their own threads through, although it’s a little disappointing to realise that there’s considerably less time devoted to the daughter, Adare, than to the others. What we see of her, though, is intriguing, and certainly impacts on the tale – it would just have been nice to have had more of the Machiavellian politics. I strongly suspect (and hope) that the second volume will rectify the balance.

Staveley’s passion for worldbuilding comes across more in the scenes with both Kaden and Valyn. Sure, they’re coming of age tales, but Staveley has devised elements which are outside the norm (and it would be something of a spoiler to go into too much detail on this). The kettrals – both the fighters and the birds – are a different take on some well-worn ideas and there’s still clearly much to learn about them in the following volumes.

The writing style is occasionally repetitious – an element which needs to be reined in once a degree of recapitulation is required for the second book – but overall this is an enjoyable read, with enough left untapped to ensure that you want to read the sequel.

Verdict: A solid debut novel, with much potential evident in concepts and author. 7/10

Paul Simpson

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