By: Brian Staveley
476 pages (Hardcover)
“Come for the intrigue, assassination, death priests, black-ops bird riders, and giant poisonous hive-lizards. Stay for Staveley’s characters, his language, and his way-cool fantasy Zen.” -Max Gladstone, Author of Three Parts Dead.
* * *
The above book endorsement says it all. I really couldn’t have described the book any better than that. The thing I liked the most about this book was the “fantasy Zen” vibe that the author has created.
Each of the emperor’s three children has been training for years in a different area. The story focused most on the two boys, but the emperor’s daughter played just as significant a role in the story, despite her lack of screen-time. Kaden is trained as a monk in pursuit of the vaniate, a state of emptiness, following the Blank God. Out of all the gods and religions in this story, this was my favorite. Valyn’s training is quite the opposite – in a ninja assassins that ride giant birds kind of way.
The diversity of gods and religious beliefs in this story was really interesting. The world itself was wonderfully complex, leaving lots of room for complications and challenges, government, religion, supernatural abilities, oh and I forgot to mention a couple of ancient races thought to be extinct. That bit of history, and the questions it brought up, gave the story additional depth. I like depth.
My only problem with the story was that it seemed to move a bit slowly, more so because I had a hard time relating to Kaden and Valyn for most of the book. Their training is so brutal, in different ways, but with the same result, that both are so tough that any emotion or vulnerability they express seems less believable. However, as the story progressed I was able to relate to them more, and by the end, I felt much closer to them. The pace really picks up at the last 150 pages, and all that came before was necessary to appreciate the ending. It takes the whole story to get to know the characters, but I think it was ultimately worth it.
Overall it was a pretty awesome book. It was a late addition to my book list, that I had no intention of getting to for quite some time, but I happened upon it at the library when I couldn’t find the other books I was looking for. I’m a little glad the other books weren’t available. I have every intention of reading the next two books. There is so much going on in that story that I want to know more about. Until next time…