For centuries beyond counting, humanity has served the Others, godlike Eternals who rule from their cloud-capped mountain city, building a civilization of unimagined beauty and unchecked viciousness.
But all that is about to change. Bas Alyates, grizzled general of a thousand battles, has assembled a vast army with which to contend with the might of Those Above. Eudokia, Machiavellian matriarch and the power behind the Empty Throne, travels to the Roost, nominally to play peacemaker - but in fact to inspire the human population toward revolt.
Deep in the dark byways of the mountain's lower tiers, the urchin Pyre leads a band of fanatical revolutionaries in acts of terrorism against their inhuman oppressors. Against them, Calla, handmaiden of the Eternals' king, fights desperately to stave off the rising tide of violence which threatens to destroy her beloved city.
The story begun in Those Above comes to a stunning conclusion in this unforgettable battle for the hearts and minds of the human race, making The Empty Throne the most exciting epic fantasies of recent times.
©2016 Daniel Polansky (P)2016 Hodder & Stoughton
This was a satisfying and fitting conclusion to Daniel Polansky's Empty Throne duology. It confirmed Polansky as an author to watch in my opinion. This was an unusual fantasy story for a few reasons. It was slow paced, but always interesting and engaging. It lacked any characters that I could truly root for, but also made it impossible for me not to sympathize with each of the characters at various times throughout the story. The story was dark, brutal, and very cynical in tone, but at the same time also strangely introspective and melancholic. The story was also one that kept the reader guessing until the very last moment about who would emerge victorious in the ultimate struggle between humanity and the Others and also about the fate of the various POV characters.
This story picked up where the previous book left off with the ambitious Aelerians readying for a war against their inhuman overlords. Bas and his army have routed the last of the human opposition and now ready themselves for the ultimate test against the Eternal. Thistle, now renamed Pyrre, has joined the cause of the Five Fingered and seeks redemption for himself and freedom for his oppressed people. Calla senses that war is inevitable and wants to do all she can to protect the Roost from invasion. Eudokia finds herself in the Roost itself, as a political emissary of sorts, and pits her wits against those of the Eternals as she seeks to put the final touches in her long held dreams of dominance and vengeance.
All in all this was an enjoyable and engaging read. I was happy with the story and how all the loose ends were concluded. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed Pyrre's story arc the most. He showed great development and growth over the course of the Empty Throne books. Eudokia was as fascinating to follow as ever. She was as ruthless as ever in pursuit of her goals, but had moments of humanity and a few interesting observations to impart to some of the more naive characters. I liked Calla and Bas the most. Both were very different in personality. Calla, young and full of hope and naivety. Bas, old and cynical but not willing to give up on dreams even when they seemed hopeless.
Polansky had an engaging writing style that was strange mix of beautiful and gritty. The result was this story felt a bit like reading a grimdark Guy Gavriel Kay story!
Jonathan Keeble took over narrator duties from Andrew Wincott. I've no idea why as Wincott did a good job with Those Above and consistency is the most important factor when it comes to audio series if only for the consistency of character interpretation. That said, I think Keeble did an admirable job. He got a bit overexcited with the action scenes, but apart from that was excellent.
The story is a long playing out of an intrinsic conflict between two species, one composed of excellent individualists (the others), the other a social group dominated by the first (man). Through several life stories, of very interesting characters, the epic conflict and rather bitter, tragic conclusion is revealed.
A thoroughly engaging, and recognizable world is evoked in both books. The characters all have compelling narratives, woven together towards its bleak ("realist") end.
Well worth reading
The final chapters
The new narrator changed all the character voices which proved annoying and a tad confusing initially
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