Welcome to my stop on the The Empire’s Ruin blog tour! Huge thanks to Tor UK and Black Crow PR for giving me the opportunity to take part in this! I was provided a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Tor UK
Publication Date: 08/07/2021
Length: 752 pages
Genre: Epic Fantasy
CW: mentions of sexual assault
One soldier will bear the hopes of an empireGoodReads
The Kettral were the glory and despair of the Annurian Empire – elite soldiers who rode war hawks into battle. Now the Kettral’s numbers have dwindled and the great empire is dying. Its grip is further weakened by the failure of the kenta gates, which granted instantaneous access to its vast lands.
To restore the Kettral, one of its soldiers is given a mission. Gwenna Sharpe must voyage beyond the edge of the known world, to the mythical nesting grounds of the giant war hawks. The journey will take her through a land that warps and poisons all living things. Yet if she succeeds, she could return a champion, rebuild the Kettral to their former numbers – and help save the empire. The gates are also essential to the empire’s survival, and a monk turned con-artist may hold the key to unlocking them.
What they discover will change them and the Annurian Empire forever – if they survive. For deep within the southern reaches of the land, a malevolent force is stirring . . .
Staveley is an author who I have heard a lot about since coming back into the world of fantasy, so when the invitation for this blog tour landed in my inbox I knew I had to accept! I was immediately gripped by the first chapter of The Empire’s Ruin and it is easy to see why Staveley is a favourite amongst fans of the genre.
Whilst this is a beast of a novel at 752 pages, don’t let that intimidate you! There are three different narratives running through this novel, all with engaging characters which have the pages just flying by. From the opening pages I fell in love with Gwenna, Commander of the Kettrals who will do everything she can for her men even if she knows that her ideas aren’t the best. The entire opening chapter is from Gwenna’s perspective as she embarks on one of her most dangerous missions and makes several mistakes which cost her the lives of those she is sworn to lead. She is such a strong and complex character, it was fascinating seeing how she coped in the aftermath of the disaster. I liked how she appeared to have lost herself for a moment and yet there were still parts of her stubborn personality that shone through. I particularly loved her fiery interactions with Jonon, the Admiral, but the true highlight was her unlikely… friendship with a feral girl who she, affectionately, names ‘Rat’ (in fact, I could have an entire 700 page novel with just Gwenna and Rat and not get bored).
Then we have the narratives of the Priests of Eira, Ruc and Bien who aren’t typical priests. I found these chapters of the novel great for understanding the politics behind other parts of the novel. Whilst each narrative builds the world in a certain way and alludes to a ‘bigger picture’ – it felt as though Ruc and Bien were in the heart of the political turmoil which was great to see alongside the other narratives revolving around the Annur. I also really liked seeing them contrasted with the ‘Worthy’ in later chapters, it feels like they shouldn’t work as well together as they do but Staveley has a knack for crafting characters as well as world-building. Even Akiil, who we don’t see as often as the other characters, is incredibly memorable as the con-man monk. By the end of the novel, I was surprised to find that he was one of my favourite characters and much more complicated than I initially thought.
Whilst each narrative may seem separate at first, as the novel progresses you begin to see more and more links between them. I loved this gradual coming together of the plot as it had me eagerly returning to the novel to see what happened next every time I picked it back up again when life decided to interrupt. Although so much is going on in the novel, it was very easy to keep up with all of the different strands of plot and the different groups of people within this world. The attention to detail in the different settings also highlights how Staveley is absorbed in this world as much as the reader is, which is always great to see on the page. His descriptions of action as well as the world also captivated me and I could clearly see everything as I was reading, even if there were times I perhaps didn’t want to (well, maybe that’s not entirely true, I did very much enjoy seeing certain characters get what was coming to them).
Overall, I loved The Empire’s Ruin and will be checking out the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series as I just need to know more about this world whilst I wait for the next installment in the Ashes of the Unhewn Throne series. Not many authors can write a 700 page book and leave me desperate for more but Staveley has masterfully achieved this.