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Summary

Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades, gives listeners the first book in a new epic fantasy trilogy based in the world of his popular series the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, The Empire's Ruin.

Best of Summer 2021 - Polygon

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.

©2021 by Brian Staveley. (P)2021 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic reviews

“Brian Staveley’s books are epic in every sense of the word. His characters are complex, his history deep, his plots rife with action and intrigue. He’s a giant in the genre, no doubt.” (Nicolas Eames, author of Kings of the Wyld)

“If you loved Brian Staveley's Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, then hang onto your war hawk, 'cause his new book, The Empire’s Ruin, returns to the world of the crumbling Annurian Empire in a spectacular way. Fans of Staveley's work, and those who enjoy epic fantasy outside the conventional mold, are going to unearth treasure.” (R.S. Belcher)

What listeners say about The Empire's Ruin

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Interesting story but cringey 2d wokeness

Story interesting enough, bit slow and long but they have ruined some characters with some limp woke stereotypes. Had to speed up some paragraphs, felt like preteen writing at times. Wasn't a fan of the 3 narrators either bit young/light, more YA feel. Worth the read if you followed series but won't reread.

6 people found this helpful

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  • A
  • 13-08-21

Great

If you liked the first trilogy and Skullsworn, you're bound to like this. You will learn many new things about this world.

3 POV characters. Gwenna, Akiil (characters from previous trilogy) and Ruc (new character, but he has links to old characters).

Narrators are very good. I'm glad there are multiple narrators, both woman and men.

Did it need to be 35 hours long? No, could've trimmed it, but if you're a fan of the fantasy genre you probably don't care about long length.

Anything bad? I don't think so, but if you dislike swearing then don't buy this, Gwenna swears in about every sentence.

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Slow burn but ended well

Seems like a good story overall My issue was with one of the main characters. It's my pet peeve when a character is supposed to be high ranking and top of their game but act like an idiot repeatedly. This sorts itself out about half way through and the book improves rapidly.

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Meh

I gave up after chapter 1. Just a battle scene, with no plot that I could discern. There's a limit to the amount of hacking blades that can stay interesting.

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Back in this world again!

I am so pleased to have another book in this world and so pleased that Gwena is back! Can’t wait for the next book!

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best in the series; phenomenally good

loved it from start to finish. Riveting and beautifully written, it capitalises on the rich lore and wonderful characters in the previous books and connects threads that I truly thought were entirely separate.i don't generally leave reviews but I felt motivated to do so. read the series, then this one. You will not be disappointed.

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Started slow but so worth it...

I'm a big fan of Brian Staveley. I read his first trilogy and loved it. This book took me a little longer to get into but then I think that's to be expected - he's introducing two new POV characters and needs to build up a bit of history for them.
I think the pay off is very worth it. I loved both Gwenna and Ruc's stories very much. I was less sold on Akiil's story but I think that had to do with the narrator for this POV who I didn't feel was as good as the other two.
The story is interesting. I often wonder how the author will write his way out of corners he creates with hugely overpowered characters but, to his credit, he manages to every time and in a believable way no less!
I'll definitely be buying the next instalment.

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Pacey, action packed and a great sequel

If you loved the first three books, this is for you. Action packed story; yes, much has been reviewed about the introspection of one character, but I didn't feel it was as laboured as some said. I got past it. Narration by one actor is a bit too camp for me, but it's only part of the narrating, so perfectly tolerable. Loved this book; so thrilled the author added more to the original trilogy. I recommend it!

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35 hours were not enough

The longest book I have ever listened to. It ended too soon! Loved every minute of it, didn’t get bored even once.
Looking forward to the next one.

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“You die or you don’t”

Loved all of Brian’s books so far and this is no exception!
Tons of action and hard fought storylines.
Really disappointed when it came to an end!Great narrators with some excellent pacing, atmosphere and character voices.
Took me a little while to get used to the switching of narrators though and unfortunately I didn’t find Oliver’s style as much to my liking as the others and found myself a little disappointed when it came around (hence only the 4 stars for performance!) but it wouldn’t stop me from listening again!

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  • James
  • 10-07-21

Great start!

I’ll leave it to other reviewers to go over the plot. Here are a few of my observations.

First the narration. I feel like fantasy fans are the most demanding of listeners of audiobooks. I know many will not like the decision to move away from Simon Vance but it was a good decision. I love Simon Vance but with the rotating p.o.v’s and huge cast it makes the most sense to do this. A lot of listeners didn’t like Browns Red Rising Audiobooks to go that direction but I felt the same way there as here. It was a great decision. I thought Moira Quirk was the best one but the other two were alright. I’ve certainly heard far worse.

Secondly. Can one read it without reading the previous books? Well that depends on the sort of reader you are. Are you ok without having every back story explained to you and you can shrug it off and say it’s not really important to the story and piece relationships and things together as you go along? Then you’ll be fine.

Thirdly. Is it good? It is definitely his best book so far. I have mixed feelings about Staveley’s books. I feel like the Emperors Blades was great, some questionable decisions were made in the second and I really did not like the third book. I couldn’t get into Skullsworn and havnt finished that one. In this book he writes with more of a standard epic fantasy tone that will be more familiar to readers. It’s hard to describe and put my finger on it but it is just better all around. He also has these flourishes that shows what a great writer he is. For instance, instead of saying it was rainy and overcast look at this description:

“The hot, wet jiangba season should have ended weeks earlier, around the equinox, but aside from one or two breaks, the storms refused to relent. The sun, which should have been blazing in the sky, was little more than a pale, green-gray disk, like a dream of sun. No fire, no substance. The rain, on the other hand, was all too real. The rain had weight. Not the individual drops, of course, which splattered harmlessly on the bridges and wooden causeways, drained from the baked-clay tiles of the rooftops, stippled Dombâng’s ten thousand canals, but the idea of the rain, countless days of it, crouching over the city, pressing down, down, down, gently but unrelentingly, with a billion implacable fingers until even people who had lived their entire lives in the delta, who had seen forty or fifty or seventy rainy seasons, began to go about stooped, hunched, as though the weather were a weight that they bore on their backs.”

Now can Staveley stick the landing for the rest of this series? Time will tell but I am very hopeful based on this fantastic start.

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  • BeauFLA
  • 19-07-21

This is a horrible book

Boring grimdark without a real storyline. I'm returning it. If all you want is 33 hours of self loathing, death and pain this book might be for you. Otherwise I'd leave this one alone.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Joseph D.
  • 17-07-21

tedious but not horrible

tedious. stories okay but the characters are full of lament and self loathing. And spend large amounts of time going over it.

7 people found this helpful

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  • gjm
  • 08-07-21

Vance?

Vance was far better. Skullsworn I had to stop listening. Can't identify with the story with these narrators.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Nom de plume
  • 25-07-21

felt like a movie

I loved the initial concept and setting of this book. I like when a story begins by tossing the reader into the middle of a situation without full context. it grips you, and helps become invested in the outcome by the nature of the conflict before knowing the characters.

that said, you ever watch a movie that has characters from a profession you're familiar with, and its obvious that the writer never experienced the realities of the job? or didn't bother to do any research into the field before writing? this book is like that. the main military character is needlessly aggressive and defiant towards authority and refuses to accept responsibility. I've known many operators from different branches of the military, and this is not a character trait they embody. if you are specially trained and are the best of the best, then you are held to a higher standard. they accept it. I found myself co.pletely apathetic to the outcome of the main character due to her dogged attachment to excuses and eventual wallowing in self pity.

other positives were the landscape and culture were imaginative and interesting. though probably not enough for me to spend time on the sequal.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Joshua Lorimer
  • 25-07-21

Staveley no quit!

I loved the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne trilogy. I even chose to read through all three books for the third or fourth time before diving into The Empire’s Ruin. And I’m so glad I did. By the end of Chronicles, Gwenna Sharpe had completely stolen the show for me. This story was no different. As a warrior and leader, with demons all her own, Gwenna is the titular character I had initially rooted for one of the Malkeenian to become. The Historian’s perspective of her gives words to exactly that sentiment. This is a woman whose will refuses to be broken! And Moira Quirk’s performance managed to capture the veracity, passion, and heartbreak of this wonderful character.

In many ways, I feel that Staveley's growth as an author can be seen stunningly clear through Sharpe’s journey as a character. Her internal monologue feels too real to have come from mere observation. I honestly imagine that Staveley has had these discussions with himself. Initially considered a fantasy expert and nothing more. Slowly, torturously, the walls of that “mere” categorization are stripped away. He had to become more than a fantasy author. The responsibility of a wing leader must feel similar to that of an author’s influence and voice. As Gwenna is torn from the home she made by the end of Book 3, so too does this new story tear Staveley from the comfort of the Malkeenian’s world. What was big now seems small. What was distant now draws close. As Rat pleaded her name, I could feel myself pleading with the author. Please don’t let go of your voice! Please don’t let this dark world swallow you whole!

I do not know if he will ever see this review, but Brian thank you for continuing to step into the fray of storytelling. Thank you for believing in these characters enough to give them the time they needed on the page.

Being the father of a fiery little red-haired girl, I look forward to sharing this fiery red-haired heroine with her one day.

I wish you and this story, all the luck in the world!

Cheers.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Scott S.
  • 29-08-21

Excellent Start To New Series

Having enjoyed the The Emperor's Blades series, I was looking forward to The Empire's Ruin, I expected Simon Vance to continue with the narration, but when I found out that two of my favorite narrators in Moira Quirk and Joe Jameson would be narrating this book, I have to say I became excited. They, and the book itself did not disappoint.

The Empire's Ruin continues on a few years after the previous series with a few old characters, and some new ones. Gwenna Sharp, a member of the Ketral and a character who had a smaller part in the Emperor's Blades series, takes over as the main POV in this book. While she is the cause of a tragedy that sends he into turmoil for a large part of the middle of the book, she eventually finds her strength through the companionship of a unlikely source. I really enjoyed her story. I also enjoyed the story of the other two main POVs, a priest and a monk, though the narration of one elevated his story over the other.

Speaking of the narration, I enjoyed the narration of Simon Vance in the previous series. He is a top notch narrator, however the new narrators of this book just brought the book to a whole new dimension. Moira Quirk has quickly become one of my favorite narrators in fantasy. Her portrayal of Gwenna was perfect. I have been a fan of Joe Jamison's for awhile now, and his narration in this book was excellent as always. As for Oliver Cudbill, he didn't quite live up to the other two narrators, but he wasn't bad either. The combination of the three made for a much more enjoyable book.

Overall, I thought this was one of the best audible books I have listened to this year. The combination of great story and excellent narration kept me listening for hours. A 35 hour book done before I knew it. Can't wait for the next.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Lucas M. Shepherd
  • 12-08-21

This book can be brutal. 5/5

I really like the writing style of the author. I thought with such a long running time there would be a lot of filler but that doesn't seem the case. This is definitely a book where they let the mistakes fly (for the characters in the book) and isn't a hero-wins-all book. It pulls you through the mud and blood and grime. Looking forward to the next book.

3 people found this helpful

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  • ninjajoe
  • 16-07-21

Noticeable improvement in just about every regard.

I absolutely love this book. the voice actors were perfect. be careful because it does get quite gory.

3 people found this helpful

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  • J.Z.
  • 09-07-21

The story continues…

If you enjoyed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne then start this series. It continues the story with a good balance of new and familiar perspectives. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can’t wait for the next one.

2 people found this helpful