Review copy was received from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Empire's Ruin by Brian Staveley
Narrator: Moira Quick, Joe Jameson, Oliver Cudbill
Series: Ashes of the Unhewn Throne #1
Published by Brilliance Audio on July 6, 2021
Length: 35 hours, 33 minutes
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The Annurian Empire is disintegrating. The advantages it used for millennia have fallen to ruin. The ranks of the Kettral have been decimated from within, and the kenta gates, granting instantaneous travel across the vast lands of the empire, can no longer be used.
In order to save the empire, one of the surviving Kettral must voyage beyond the edge of the known world through a land that warps and poisons all living things to find the nesting ground of the giant war hawks. Meanwhile, a monk turned con-artist may hold the secret to the kenta gates.
But time is running out. Deep within the southern reaches of the empire and ancient god-like race has begun to stir.
What they discover will change them and the Annurian Empire forever. If they can survive.
The Empire’s Ruin is the first book in The Ashes of the Unhewn Throne series set about five years after all the events in the parent series the Chronical of the Unhewn Throne. I was on the fence about if I wanted to jump into this series. The reason, I loved the first two books of the Unhewn Throne but the third really didn’t live up to my extremely high expectations. Staveley is a great writer though and I loved Gwenna from the first series so I gave it a try and I am not disappointed. This is a series you really need to have read the parent series, at least up to the third book to really get a lot of the history, especially of the Kettral.
Gwenna, was probably my favorite female character from the parent series. She is a fiery girl who likes to blow stuff up and has proved her strength in so many situations. She came to leadership through some hard battles and rolled the dice and won so many times she sometimes feels invincible and that every crazy plan is going to work, until it didn’t. She made some calls and lost the last Kettral and a few of her team. Now she has to go on some crazy mission in hopes of redeeming herself and the mistakes she has made. It is a hard road out of that dark place she is in with her confidence lost. She will pick up a few new friends along the way and make plenty of enemies. Her story is action packed in a strange land with danger and monsters around every corner. My favorite new ally was Rat, a little girl in this monstrous land with a lot of fight in her.
Ruc was a priest of the goddess of love. Well at least that is the role he has played for the last fifteen years, prior to that he was raised by godlike creatures in what basically amounted to a swamp. He learned how to kill, how to hunt and how to live in the swamp until he found he was also supposed to kill the humans that came there as tribute. He is trying so hard to suppress the violence inside him which becomes neigh on impossible once his temple is burnt down and he is thrown into a gladiator style competition with his long time lover, Baen. They will have to escape if they really want to survive, but they will also need to hurry because a new God is headed to his city and that God wants all to live in chains of submission.
This story line was just as exciting as Gwenna’s, probably because I always enjoy Gladiator type scenarios in stories and I really wanted to learn more about Ruc’s past, living with two of The Three (the gods of the city he currently lives in). Plus this is the only story that had any hint of love/romance not that those ever seem to work out in Staveley books. Ruc and Baen do love each other but have both been keeping pretty big secrets, so I’m not sure they will survive the series, let alone come out the other side still connected by love.
The last PoV that really gets the least amount of time in this story is Akiil. He was one of the monks who grew up with Aidan from the first series and we met him briefly. He has pretty much been a grifter since the destruction of his Order of Monks. He has come to the capitol to perform the biggest grift of his life on the Emperor. There are transportation gates you can use if you know how to get to the right mindset, Akiil is going to temp the Emperor with the idea that he can train her how to use those gates. She is going to need them with the Kettral gone and her empire in trouble from multiple sides. If she is going to hold onto power, she will need something huge to help her.
This was a pretty action packed story and I really had a great time being in the world. All the PoVs were interesting but Gwenna’s and Ruc’s PoVs were so intense at times. I love Staveley’s prose; he is so good at describing what things feel like and the flow of the story is really strong. He really is a great fantasy writer, here is hoping he doesn’t break me in my journey through his new series.
As a reader I really appreciate when there are multiple narrators for different PoVs. Moira Quirk did a great job with capturing the spunk, depression and desperation in Gwenna’s chapters. Her representation of Rat and all the other characters really made them come to life. Joe James0n and Oliver Cudbill also were fantastic in really bringing their PoVs to life and making the listener really feel the danger and hope the characters have. This is a series where the audio helps make the book even better. I was able to listen at my usual 1.5x speed.
Listen to a clip: HERE
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