By Brian Staveley.
The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.
Having learned the identity of her father’s assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy.
Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire’s most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.
Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it.
The first book in this trilogy is called The Emperor’s Blades. It’s a great high fantasy book, but it had an ending of sorts, even as it set things in motion for the next book. It took me a couple of months to start reading the second book, partly because I thought I knew what to expect, and partly because the middle book in a trilogy tends to be the weakest of them all, dragging the story along until the climax in the third book. I was never more wrong in my life, because this is one of the best middle books I’ve read so far.
The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne is about 3 siblings – Kaden, Valyn and Adare – whose father, the Emperor of Annur, is assassinated in the beginning of The Emperor’s Blades. That book ends with Adare finding out who assassinated him, and Kaden and Valyn, deciding to split up again after a brief reunion and go on separate missions. This book is so much more than its setup though.
The most important thing I can say about this trilogy is that I like and care about all main characters. The events of the first book have consequences, and their effects are felt by everyone. They are all forced to grow and change and that evolution is shown beautifully as this book unfolds. The cast of secondary characters is quite interesting too, which helps us to really fully immerse ourselves in this world.
I’ve read a lot of middle books where nothing really happens, and this book breaks away from this mold completely. It sets a relentless pace and I appreciated it so much. It’s also very clever in the way it switches POVs, always at the exact right time, always in the best way to keep us on edge to know what’s happening. As soon as we wanted to know more about Valyn, it would switch to Adare. When we wanted to see Adare, it would show us Kaden. This, far from frustrating, just upped my excitement from chapter to chapter, because none of the POVs were boring. In addition, this book introduces Gwenna’s POV to the mix and it’s as kickass as one would expect.
Another thing I loved is that they didn’t save a big twist for the end. This book is full of smaller twists, sprinkled throughout and they are all pretty amazing. I could never predict where the story was going, and that’s an extraordinary feeling.
Also of note was the way no one knew anything about what was happening with the others, in a very organic way which I really enjoyed. This is a vast world with no means of long distance communication, so it made sense that the characters could never be sure of anything. All they had to go on were rumors that would make their way to them months after the fact.
This book had everything. Action, intrigue, excitement, a refreshing lack of romance, and best of all, characters you care about. On to number 3.
4 hearts out of 5.