The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

Book Review

Brian Staveley’s debut novel The Emperor’s Blades is being promoted as 2014’s biggest debut fantasy novel. It’s a book that will stir the imaginations of all readers and make them stand up and notice this new author. These are big words to be swinging around in January, but after spending enough time with the book I’m calling it. Move over Sanderson, Rothfuss, Brett, and Weeks. We’ve got a new name in epic fantasy, and he’s leaving a big mark with The Emperor’s Blades.

The story follows three siblings that deal with the ramifications of the murder of their father, the emperor. Kaden, the heir, has been at a remote monastery in the mountains for eight years. His sister, Adare, has been promoted to Minister of Finance upon her father’s death and now must navigate the political currents of Annur if she hopes to bring justice to the man that murdered her father. And then there’s Valyn. He is a cadet of the Kettral, masterful killers who fly massive birds into battle. With news of their father’s death he has to finish his training and rush to help his brother Kaden, lest he be murdered as well.

The brothers get the most page time while Adare is sprinkled through every now and again. Ultimately, this was the best move Staveley could have made. While Adare’s storyline is important, crucial even, it lacks enough driving force to warrant any more time than she was given. (A point that is going to be remedied in the sequel according to Staveley)

The real titan of the book is Valyn. His struggles on the islands the Kettral use for a base are the most engaging and thrilling to read. Immediately, danger surrounds Valyn, both from his teammates and from a rumored plot to kill the entire royal line. The entire Kettral storyline is told with such a clear and concise eye to the hard life of a cadet that you can’t stop. It’s exciting, it’s bloody, it’s deadly, and overall Valyn is the most human – a character I can picture myself getting a drink with at the bar (my hallmark for a well-written character).

Meanwhile, Kaden is in the mountains, oblivious to the happenings of the civilized world. His new teacher prefers to put Kaden through inventive and painful exercises to hone his mind and enter into a trance-like state of no emotion “the vaniate”. The monks and Kaden give us the worldbuilding in big meaty bites. The storyline of the heir is built for those that like to read about the gods and how they’re worshipped or an ancient evil that may be resurfacing.

The magic of the world is limited. It’s regarded with not only hate but also a primal disgust that leaves those caught to be able to use magic, “leeches,” executed immediately. That is unless the Kettral recruits them. Valyn’s interactions with fellow leech cadets paints a picture for the reader on how the magic works in this world. Namely, each leech draws from a specific well – iron, solar power, emotions, water, animals, the possibilities are endless – and manipulates the world with that power, relative to how much of their well is nearby they can draw from. It’s an interesting system with, more importantly, an interesting limitation.

The writing isn’t perfect. There were a few odd word choices here and there and Adare’s storyline, while the right length for this particular instance, was a bit muddled. As if Staveley knew exactly where/what Kaden and Valyn would do and was 70% sure about Adare. It just wasn’t as immersive as the other two (which is okay considering how much page-time she ultimately received.) But I would challenge anyone to pick up the debut book of their favorite author, whoever he/she may be, and not find the same type of issues. Staveley has found something incredible with The Emperor’s Blades and when the sequel hits the shelves I have absolute faith it will be that much better. This is epic fantasy for the new age and frankly, I’m loving what I’m seeing.

The first 7 chapters are up on for FREE – or you can find a download for you ereader of choice, so I’d highly recommend checking those out. Unless of course you just want to go ahead and put your pre-order in for the January 14 release. Either way, this isn’t one you’re going to want to miss.



The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson – Book Review

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson’s latest novel takes us into a world where those who have been TheRithmatistbyBrandonSandersonBookCovere1354067155704chosen are able to bring chalk drawings to life through the use of Rithmatics. It’s a complex magic system that Brandon executes in his usual flawless fashion while still retaining a hidden depth to be explored in further installments. While branded as Young Adult The Rithmatist features some mature themes that are still accessible to the younger generation. It’s a fun and easy read that fans of Brandon’s work should not miss out.

This is a world of clockwork and Brandon uses every chance he can to show it off. From mechanized horses that travel the streets to the clockwork crabs that mow the grass. Even the gold coins feature tiny gears that you can prime with a key and set spinning. It’s a wonderful touch that provides an interesting piece of to the world and the setting of each scene.

Joel, our sixteen-year-old hero, is the son of a cleaning lady at one of the most prestigious schools in the United Isles, Armedius Academy. Not only is Armedius a place to learn about History or Mathematics but also it is a place to learn Rithmatics. The ability to bring chalk drawings to life in order to do battle with other Rithmatists. Joel is fascinated with Rithmatics and is a prodigy, able to freehand draw near perfect defensive circles as well as retain an impressive amount of information on the magic system in general. There is one problem however; Joel is completely devoid of any Rithmatic talent himself.

When Armedius is plagued by an assailant known as the Scribbler who kidnaps the Rithmatic students it is up to Joel, an aged Professor, and a young Rithmatist named Melody to aid the police in solving the crime.

Counterpoint to our main character, Joel, is Melody. A young Rithmatist who has trouble drawing steady defensive lines yet excels at artistic renderings of chalklings. Melody adds a refreshing bit of humor to the story with some of the most memorable dialogue in the book. Such as one instance after running into Joel for the third time that day – “Just don’t show up outside my window at night, or I shall have to scream and throw something at you.”

Rithmatics uses the power of chalk to create defensive circles and animated minions between two Rithmatists in a duel. It hearkens to old Real-Time Strategy games and focuses on the quick thinking and skill of each duelist in order to obtain victory. The system itself has religious underpinnings, with each child undergoing a ceremonial process at the age of eight to determine if they have the gift or not. This shrouds the entire system in a complex mystery that begs to be answered. Luckily Brandon has written in a promise for future installments with an declaration of “To Be Continued.”

rithmatist-basic-easton-defenseWith a magic system focused so heavily on complex diagrams and drawings made from chalk, pictures would be a prime benefit to include, and luckily Brandon and his team had realized this early on. Illustrated by the talented Ben McSweeney, the same gentleman that sketched for Way of Kings, are numerous doodles and representations of chalkings spread throughout the text along with diagrams of the varied types of defense preceding each chapter. It’s a wonderful touch that had me excited to dig out my street chalk and run outside to try my hand at the Easton Defense.

While marketed and branded in the Young Adult market really The Rithmatist would be at home on the shelf of anyone who enjoys a fun read with an interesting plot and magic system. Sanderson isn’t afraid to tackle some bigger issues in the course of the book while still remaining tame enough for children.

Any fan of fantasy, young or old, should not miss The Rithmatist. It is the latest in an immensely successful career of one of the titans of fantasy.

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan – Review

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan


The Powder Mage trilogy begins with Promise of Blood, a fantastic and engaging book from debut author Brian McClellan. Powerful sorcerers, trained Marksmen with magical abilities, and long forgotten gods bring color and intrigue to the world of Adro following a bloody revolution that has left the King and his royal cabal dead and a new government run by the people on it’s way to power. Promise of Blood is filled with engaging characters, original worldbuilding, and a plot that left me unable to put the book down until I finished two days later.

The blurb on the back of my ARC says “A fantasy debut perfect for fans of Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and Brent Weeks.” And I can honestly say that this is absolutely true. I found Promise of Blood to be an amazing amalgamation of these author’s writing styles. It has the cinematic quality of Brandon Sanderson, along with his talent for magic systems and worldbuilding, while touching on a bit of the dark and grittiness found in Weeks’ books, and a dash of Rothfuss’ way with words. Put simply, this is an engaging and wonderfully written work that is going to do great things in the Fantasy-genre this year.

As I mentioned previously, a large theme in this book deals with revolution. We start the book immediately following a bloody coup of the King and his sorcerers and it’s non stop action from there. Field-Marshall Tamas, his Powder Cabal – deadly marksmen who use gunpowder to fuel their magic -, along with his Council of supporters are left to manage a city that was deep in debt and ill-prepared for a shift in political structure.

Meanwhile Taniel, a gifted marksman who is also Tamas’ son, is sent to hunt a Privileged sorcerer who escaped the night of the coup. Alongside his partner, a savage girl named Ka-poel, they travel to a mountain fort that borders their nation of Adro with their enemy Kez. Taniel’s sections were always some of the more interesting. Addiction and the overcoming of personal and emotional obstacles being a prominent trait of these sections.

Meanwhile, Adamat, a retired investigator is hired by Tamas to put his detective skills to work uncovering mystery after mystery that started the night he killed the King’s sorcerer’s in their sleep. These chapters provided the most depth to the story and cast as he goes to any length to get the answers necessary to be payed.

Being a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson I have a weakness for well-thought out and original magic systems and Brian McClellan doesn’t disappoint. There are, depending on how you count them, either three or four magic systems shown in Promise of Blood. Of course the one that takes center stage is that of the Powder Mages. Gunpowder magic. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

Magic that is fueled by gunpowder. It’s one of those concepts that once you hear it, you have to smack yourself in the head for not thinking of it first. McClellan handles this expertly, doling out information as needed to set the stage for a dramatic use of the magic system. The use of guns and gunpowder is a welcome breath in the fantasy genre. Instead of simply ignoring their presence in history, McClellan seized the opportunity and crafted the ability to kill an enemy from a distance into his narrative.

In true Fantasy style Brian leaves us wanting nothing but more, more, more at the end of Promise of Blood. There are more questions than answers and a level of excitement as you finish book one. The last one hundred pages goes by in a flash as you devour a finely crafted ending that leaves you desperate for more information. Luckily, The Crimson Campaign, book two, is already scheduled to be released in February 2014 and Orbit has released the gorgeous cover art to keep attention on this talented debut author.


Part of me is hesitant to offer so much praise to a book, especially a debut novel. But as I write this review and I flip through some of my favorite passages I know it’s well justified. If you are a fan of epic-fantasy with a twist of the strange in execution and content, you’ll be mightily pleased by Brian McClellan’s debut novel, Promise of Blood.