In spite of its length, I found The Emperor’s Blades an easy and quick read. Brian Staveley wrote in a manner that drove me on as a reader. My entry into this world happened due to falling for the excerpt offer. I had fun and consider this a great first novel.
Now that I’m reviewing it, I’m kind of wondering why Brian Staveley was lauded to the extent that he has been. He brings nothing new to the field of epic fantasy. His main characters are fairly stereotypical as well.
The daughter of the emperor, Adara, behaves in a manner that does not fit with her upbringing and education. Her youth (20 years old) and recently murdered father (emperor) excuses some things, but someone with the political savvy she is supposed to have, the various political arenas attended while growing up and the testament written by her father indicates a person with less stereotypical behavior.
Kaden, the oldest son, was fun. He is the heir to the throne (the boy with the golden eyes) and three years younger than his sister. He has been kept completely away from the machinations at court and all need for frippery has been beaten, toiled and starved out of him. The Shin monastery is an ascetic and violent one. All of this is to teach him the art of emptying his mind of all emotions over a length of time. The novices are taught to endure pain of almost all kinds. How they actually manage to have an overweight and out of shape novice at the monastery is a mystery to me.
Valyn (the youngest sibling) has been trained to be a team leader for 8 years. A team leader of the Kettral. Kettral is both name of the bird used for transportation and the group of killers these kids are training to be. His upbringing is no less brutal than his brother, although self-control seems to be a trait the Kettral does not train their charges in. At first I pictured these kids being trained in the manner Seals are trained. Their physical training is certainly on par with that. But the cohesion, obedience and understanding seem to be lacking. Granted, Valyn is only 15, but he has been at this for eight years already. As impressionable as kids at the time that he was sent to the Kettral, these qualities should have been like breathing to novices.
The other problem I had with the Kettral were the birds themselves. Details, I know, but I am autistic and details is what I get hung up in. Imagine how huge a bird that is supposed to carry 5 people has to be. One on top and 4 that are carried in harnesses.
An ostrich can carry a person. But it cannot fly. The problem with a bird flying around with people hanging off it has to do with the weight of the person, the weight of the bird and the bird’s wing span. Some things can improve the likelihood of the bird being able to carry one person – lower gravity, density of air, level of oxygen and so on. But being able to fly with people on its back and hanging in harnesses is impractical biologically and physics-wise. Not even the world’s largest bird, the Giant Teratorn (extinct), would have been able to do such a thing. I will concede to magic being a part of the Kettral’s abilities, but five (5) humans. I’m having a hard time with that.
But like I said at the beginning Mr. Staveley’s writing made the story fun in spite of the “new author” problems. Fun and uncomplicated.