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Summary

Brian Staveley's The Providence of Fire, the second novel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, a gripping new epic fantasy series in the tradition of Brandon Sanderson and George R. R. Martin.

The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.

Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy.

Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire's most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.

Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it.

©2014 Brian Staveley (P)2014 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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The first book had some promise...

Would you try another book written by Brian Staveley or narrated by Simon Vance?

I did and wasn't satisfied, so returned it. I think we live in an age where it is fashionable to make conflicted heroes/heroines/villains... Unfortunately most authors mistake conflicted, for contradictory or contrary. You end up with a selection of character paths that make no sense. Brian Staveley produces teen fantasy fiction, he's not George Orwell.

What was most disappointing about Brian Staveley’s story?

George Martin, Anthony Ryan, Patrick Rothfuss and Joe Abercrombie (Barring his Shattered Sea trilogy dross) handle conflicted and complex character building within well structured plots. Staveley is simply not as good as these guys and his plot direction seems to be built on a scene by scene foundation rather than an overarching tale, that is logically fitted together.

What does Simon Vance bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Simon Vance is the only constantly good thing in these books. Great narrator.

Was The Providence of Fire worth the listening time?

No. It repeatedly helped me fall asleep at night time, on the train... Anywhere I decided to stick it on really.

Any additional comments?

Some teens might enjoy this tale, but this really is just another example of poor plotting and character creation. Style over substance stuff really. At the end of day, i wish i could say that there was even a message in this slick slop, but there isn't...

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good story but....

The beginning and the end were good but the endless battle in between just went on and on and on, becoming so confusing I didn't know who was fighting who. You get the idea. But, having said that it still held my interest enough to want to know what happens in the third book. Brilliant narrator though. I would definitely look for more audio books read by him.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

A Story Full of Idiots

Would you try another book written by Brian Staveley or narrated by Simon Vance?

Not sure about Brian Staveley, but I would listen to Simon Vance narrate more books. Mr Vance's performance was the only high point of the entire thing.

What was most disappointing about Brian Staveley’s story?

He writes characters who are utter idiots.

Which character – as performed by Simon Vance – was your favourite?

While I enjoyed Simon Vance's performance, there wasn't really a character in the whole book who didn't aggravate me

Could you see The Providence of Fire being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

No. I wouldn't imagine anyone bothering to make a movie or TV series out of this. But if they did the only cast I can think who might play the characters in the book are the Teletubbies or the Three Stooges. A Cast Of Idiots.

Any additional comments?

I really tried to like this series. At first I put the constant ill fortune, which seemed to dog the three main characters down to their youth, inexperience with the greater world, or as I said just ill luck. Then I realized that things weren't getting any better, and I started to realize that bad things were happening to them because they were too stupid to avoid the disasters that kept finding them, indeed they went looking for disasters to fall into. I have read other books (notably by Ed Greedwood) where the story consists of the characters stumbling from one fight to another with little real story to make it more interesting and less annoying. (fight scenes do not a story make). The book did have a reasonably good story line, with some interesting ideas. This did not however save the book from its main failing. The utter idiocy of the characters made it painful to endure. Simon Vance did a masterful job of reading, what I think is a very poor book. I don't think I'll bother with the final volume. I think I've suffered enough.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Great book, very gritty

I really enjoyed the first book and have enjoyed this one. It is unrelentingly "gritty". I know this will appeal to some but for me it was a little too much and there are only so many descriptions of torture and physical and mental suffering that you want to hear on any given day. If I was reading I would have skimmed those bits but audio books make that difficult.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Excellent book

A gripping, original story that keeps getting better as the series progresses. Would recommend to fans of Brent Weeks

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great second instalment

Lots of interesting and new things to learn
Keeps you wanting more
One of the best stories I have listened to
Hope the third book is out soon :)

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant

I loved this book Brian Staveley certainly knows how to weave a story. I can't wait for next one.

Simon Vance narrated the story so well made it even more gripping.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Donal
  • westmeath, Ireland
  • 20-07-15

A great sequel; promising for the next installment

What did you like most about The Providence of Fire?

The book centres on three characters, all siblings, but it is the story of the two brothers that is most intriguing. Kaden and his use of the void state and Valyn and his dark gifts and their similar struggles against circumstance really hold the book's interest intact.

What other book might you compare The Providence of Fire to, and why?

It reminds me of R Scott Bakker's series Prince of Nothing with respect to Kaden's emptiness and the multiple forces at play.

Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I know Simon's voice quite well and his tone and flow really lend themselves well to narrating.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I would have listened to in one go had I the time. The shift of storytelling between the three characters stops it becoming too sluggish in pace although Adare's storyline, were it not for the cackling old woman who liven's up her scenes, can be wearisome.

Any additional comments?

Worth a listen but you should buy the first installment The Emperor's Blades first.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Parallel story lines formed an OK landscape

Set in an imaginative environment which developed beyond the first book with a number of new reveals but leaving even more unanswered questions.
The parallel stories came closer together than the first book creating greater interest and making you wish for their full interaction. Again the two brothers stories were most appealing while the "silly girl" exploits of the sister narrated as the outcome of "deep thinking" were most annoying. The major confrontations were rather disappointing and even frustrating as they all had big build ups but could only end one way despite all the "bravado" of the protagonists.
Again the end had the feel of setting up the next sequel.

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i dont know if i would recommand this book.

this book was okei.
I liked the story but it was getting boring sometimes so it was like wave goes up and down.

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  • Mike
  • 09-02-15

I'm trying really hard to like this series.

I suffered my way through "The Emperors Blades" thinking that it may just be needed to set the story line. As far as I can tell, Brian Staveley is an excellent writer, he is however, really bad at his character continuity. Without giving away the story line, it just seems like the main characters have spent years learning a specific set of skills, from the very best instructors in the world, only to make the wrong choice at every given opportunity. They consistently go against advice from people they admit are more knowledgeable in the specific area in which they are going to perform. It NEVER works out for them. It might be written that way to enhance the drama of the story, but it just doesn't make sense. The characters are either hopelessly inept, or just downright confused.

The characters themselves seem to be well developed and worth reading about, I just wish that the story wasn't so easy to predict at every turning point.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Tom Bloodworth
  • 18-01-15

Decent

The writing was technically great. The narrator was fantastic as always. Having said that, the characters are too stupid. Of course, your protagonists have to be flawed and make some mistakes, but the stupidity he writes into some of the decision-making, especially the female lead, shatters the suspension of disbelief.

19 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Nate Smith
  • 08-02-17

Adare ruins everything

hated it thank goodness for gwenna because Adare is one of the worst written characters I've read, way too much plot armor...I think the author fell in love with his character and the ending is just a hack pandering job...money I can't get back:(

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • L. Sheldon Clark
  • 25-02-15

Miscommunication driven plot ruined a good story

What was most disappointing about Brian Staveley’s story?

After the fantastic set up and world building of the first book, I expected better. Even in book one the portrayal of Adare was a tad misogynistic: an overly emotional woman with the self control of a seven year old. Her naïveté was believable then. But in book two it only gets worse. She apparently has virtually no self control in emotional events, and despite being smart and politically savvy enough to be the finance minister has all the character judgement of a rock. And despite having access to the best possible advisor in the world, and life changing events, has experienced zero character development.

Kaden and Valyn are more believable as characters, but with them the story advances solely through miscommunication. Apparently despite spending days or weeks with people they trust, they never get messages like "hey, that guy you want to talk to is an insane fanatic who will want to torture you for days."(Not that these other characters are believable either). Or they utterly fail to be able to express simple ideas to potential allies, such as "I did it all to save the emperor" and "that guy's a blood leech and I bet he's lying." It's all just more than I could handle.

Yes, the protagonists are basically kids, okay. But one of them was supposedly raised on politics at the center of power, but then has all the politics acumen of a white suburban teenager. And acts like a woman from a Dickens novel. The other two either refuse to share basic information for no apparent reason or aren't given critical and brain-dead obvious information except in the most obscure and circumcised terms.

And all of that leaves out the contradictions on fairly basic world building from the first book. For example, Kaden falls out of the vanyate (SP?) at the drop of a hat despite having to force himself out in the first book.

If the characters had been making honest mistakes on the tough choices in front of them, I would have been able to suspend my disbelief. But instead they learn nothing from the past and apparently don't get any information from the people who are supposed to be advising them.

What three words best describe Simon Vance’s performance?

Ponderous, deep, pleasant.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment. I like the characters, but their behavior doesn't match their personalities and the resulting plot it just not believable.

Any additional comments?

I was really looking forward to this book, but I couldn't even finish it, and I won't be buying the next one.

48 of 57 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Gregory
  • 25-02-15

Plot driven by repeated idiocy

Could not finish it. Tried. Repeatedly too. Every plot line is driven by poor decisions over and over. Instead of actually having events occur endless description of the characters attempts at introspection and an endless need to over describe minutia.

18 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Jeffery
  • 13-06-15

two of the blades are great, one is baffling

Valen and cadan are interesting and have great development/struggles/strengths and weaknesses. Adera is painfully stupid. It was painful to listen to her chapters.

If I learn she's removed from the next book I'll buy it.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Benjamin
  • 28-01-15

A Big Step Back

I was so hopeful after the first book. This was going to be one of those series where I actually put books on pre-order. I really liked where it was going. And then this happened. I don't know if Staveley was rushed to publication, or if he was told to cram a lot more stuff into the book to keep it lively, but this book doesn't make much sense.

Oh, there are some redeeming pieces. Staveley can check most of the blocks that go along with your basic fantasy novels. He has good fights, readable banter, surprises, and colorful atmosphere. I don't want to give him zero credit. He does those parts pretty well.

His major problem is that his characters are broken in a way that makes the story not make sense. I am not saying that he writes damaged characters intentionally like an alcoholic who acts perversely yet humanly. No, his characters are constantly doing things for no reason or for reasons they know to be false or just completely stupid. Sure, the scenes and outcomes are more dramatic, and what they do may fit for that scene, but they don't make sense to the rest of the story. I get it that characters often act contrary to their interests, it can build drama. This is understandable and completely forgivable in stories. It happens in real life all the time, but when every major character makes decisions like the drunkest freshman at a college party just to make that individual scene as striking as it can be, their motivations in the larger narrative fall apart. That is the problem with this installment. The author gets dramatic scenes that don't make sense when you try to string them together.

As this could be the sophomore doldrums, I might swing back around for the third book. But I won't be waiting breathlessly. I could just as well give this series up.

I consistently enjoy Simon Vance's readings. This narration was also strong.

21 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Christopher
  • 20-01-15

Leaves you wanting more.

This book was not as enjoyable as the first, but still a good continuation of the story. The biggest gripe I had with the book was probably the lack of communication between characters, and how some characters believe that they are smarter than all the others. There are some good twists and preparation for the next book as well. I saw one of the main characters in this book make one bad decision after another, but I also saw others countering the characters decisions behind the scenes in a way. The only problem is that now I have to wait for the next book to see how it finally plays out, and I want to see some characters put in their places.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • GregoryM
  • 08-04-15

I am done with this series

Bryan Staveley is great at creating interesting worlds and backstories. However, the logic or complete lack thereof by the main characters is just painful.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Steven
  • 10-06-16

Stupid, unlikable characters galore

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A complete rework of all three main characters and several editing passes to correct all of the authors inconsistent plot points and complete lack of plot continuity.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Certainly not another Brian Staveley book. Maybe something with less hate-able main characters, like Mein Kampf, or a John Wayne Gasey biography.

What aspect of Simon Vance’s performance would you have changed?

I would advise him to avoid further work for this author to save his sterling reputation as one of the best Narrators in the business.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

First confusion at the stupidity of the main characters, then anger at their continued stupidity, than exasperation at the lack of any redeeming qualities in the main characters and finally, boredom at the predictability of the endless chain of bad decisions made by the main characters.

Any additional comments?

This review will be spoiler heavy, so keep that in mind. Also, please forgive me if I misspell any names from the book, as I bought the audio version.

While the author has a good command of language, and is skillful at writing prose, he is completely inept at story telling and characterization.

The three main characters are unforgivably stupid, stubbornly ignorant of the obvious, and possess no qualities that would inspire admiration, or even interest in anyone, aside from homeless beggars, or maybe stray dogs.

Kaden, the imperial heir, after his years of study in detached observation is told by the abbot of the monastery he grew up in that the evil and ever feared csestriim are actually real, and that they want nothing more than to destroy all of humanity. That is the single minded goal of any and all csestriim that still exist. Later, when told that the man who killed his father the emperor and usurped the throne is csestriim, Kaden askes: "But what does he want?" "To kill you." answers the other Csesstriim who Kaden just broke out of a dungeon and is now for some reason trusting with his life. "Why would he want to kill me?" Kaden replies. "No, he wants to kill all of humanity." ALL OF HUMANITY? OH NOOO! Suddenly Kaden sees a serious threat! For some reason he forgot the warning from his now dead abbot, but takes to heart the warning from the Csesstriim he stole from a BDSM dungeon full of leather clad torture porn loving monks. And he also seemingly decided to throw out the warnings of how clever and manipulative csesstriim are. Never even ponders the chance that this csesstriim he is hanging out with, being immortal, might have a long term plan that he wants to use Kaden for, so has more reason to lie and manipulate him than any other person alive.
This is the best example of his idiotic behavior, but there are many more instances of it. So many that it becomes boring and predictable. Every time an important decision comes up, we know he will make the worst possible choice. Each time a puzzle rears it's head, we know that Kaden will take a meandering mental pathway to an extremely obvious conclusion, then those around him will be astonished at his cleverness. The way the author presents these scenes makes me wonder about his own IQ. If he thinks his readers should be impressed by Kadens kindergarten logic skills, then he must be pretty impressed himself.

Kaden is also a weakling who takes beatings from anyone who will give them without resistance. (This brings up other points about how the author thinks continuity of leadership in an imperial dynasty works, but I will get to that later). He is beaten very often, and in front of the people who are supposed to look to him for leadership, yet no one comments on the fact that the emperor doesn't have the spine to fight back. When he does actually fight back, the act is drawn out for so long that I was bored by the time he actually struck.

But don't worry, and imperial heir is capable of stupidity on an imperial scale! After already handing himself over to one set of brutal nutjobs and barely escaping, Kaden returns to the imperial capital, where, instead of showing himself and taking control (As it is later shown he could do at any time) he decides the best course of action is to hand himself over to another enemy. But don't worry, this is just a guy whose father, Kadens father had executed. Kaden beleives that his sister ( just you wait until I get to you Adare!) has conspired with the Cesstriim posing as Kennerang (Lord Marshall, or head of the military) to kill his father, himself and his brother so she could take the throne, instead of the more likely possibility that she has been manipulated by him and thinks she is helping to hold the empire together. Both the Kennerang and Kadens sister Adare are not in the city, but instead of standing up and demanding to be put on the throne, trusting that he will be safe because of public exposure, Kaden decides the best course of action is to fall in with a cabal of deposed nobles who hate his family, and by extension him. Being the heir, and only male with the crazy burning eyes that mark him as Malkeenian, they could probably end the empire by just killing him. He should know this, but still goes to meet with them and convince them that he wants to dismantle the empire.
This is more cowardly behavior, and completely out of character since he never expressed any discomfort with imperial ways before.

I can't go on about this moron any longer, so on to Valyn, the inept leader, poor fighter and overall dufus, who spent about a decade in training in the most elite military outfit in the empire.
Valyn, as a wing leader, cannot convince his suboordinates to follow orders, but he's OK with that, even if it means failing over and over. Makes sense right? This ignoramus seems to lack the ability to suss out obvious lies, and dives into them with gusto! After a botched escape from the other bird riding ninjas who are hunting him, he subdues a group of Urghol tribespeople who are mean and relentless and worship the pain god. They embrace torture as a sacred offering to their goddess, and torture each other as a matter of course. When it's time to leave these people, he decides it would be too brutal to kill them. Good idea, it turns out because they come right back with an army and capture his entire unit! after a few weeks of torture, they introduce Valyn to their leader, Longfist. No, he is not a star in gay porn, but instead, a shaman, and the only person to ever bring together the entire Urghol nation. Longfist has an army of tens or hundreds of thousands of Urghol gathered, for "defensive purposes". He also has Balandin, a turncoat and the guy who murdered Ha Lin, a woman that Valyn was clearly in love with. He didn't have time for rape, so there's that. On the word of Balandin and longfist, Valyn runs off to kill the Kennerang, leaving three female companions as guests of the Urghol while he is gone. Balandin says that the Kennerang killed his father and sent people to kill him and his brother, so it must be right? I can accept that. Longfist says he and the dead emperor were good buddies, and his army is just to defend his people? Hard to swallow, but I can live with it. Now, leaving his companions with the torture worshiping Urghol is just stupid. And not insisting that Balandin be killed is just lackwit-drool-on-chin-drowning-in-the-rain-fucking-moronic. The guy killed his love interest. Killed her, than taunted him about how sad he was that they hadn't the time to rape her first. And Valyn of the watery brain, scion of the ancient and god-born bloodline of the Malkeenian dynasty just packs a bag and runs off with him alive, after Longfist made it clear that he left the man alive in case he turned out to be useful. Good move Valen. Is your next move going to be leaving your kids in the charge of a sex offender with an erection? Nope. His next move is to ambush some imperial soldiers. He couldn't bring himself to kill the torture worshiping barbarians, but those good guys just cant be left in peace. Now it gets even better. He makes it to the spot where he hopes the Kennerang will show himself, ready to stage an assassination. He climbs to the top of a tower, to lay in wait for days, and after seeing that the women he left in the gentle care of the torture porn clans of horsemen have somehow escaped, he decides that the best course of action is to stay in his tower. Never mind that they could have valuable information that he could use, or that they could help kill the Kennerang! Never mind that he is only hoping that the tower will allow him some advantage, when he might have a good chance of gathering better information by blending in with the militia gathered to fight the oncoming 'Defensive Army" of Urghol. He stays in the tower while his people fight down below. He does eventually allow his only friend to go down and die, though. With single-minded, idiocy fueled purpose, Valyn never once considers that the best course of action might be to go and find his brother, the heir, so he can place him on the throne in the Kennerang's absence. Nope. Let's just let this helpless weakling of a kindergarten level logician deal with that himself, and lay on the roof of a tower hoping he will have a chance to kill a man he has never seen. so the chance finally comes! The target appears right below Valyn, in the top of the tower he has been hiding in the entire time. He doesn't dare move because they will surely hear him. Except that when he decides to move no one hears him. Then he throws out all of his training in clandestine operations and stealth and makes a frontal attack. His first target is of course, an innocent guard, who he kills with only minor difficulty, I won't gripe about that fact that the most important general in the empire, along with the princess who has been accepted as the next emperor have only a single guard, because, compared to some other things it is a tiny niggle.
Valyn fails, of course. This brings us to the most deplorable of the three main characters, Adare.

Adare is extremely self-centered, but too spineless to assert her selfishness. She seems to crave the company of those who are most dangerous to her, and like her younger brother Kaden, takes beatings from an old woman with the confused yet placid demeanor of a cow. After finding that the vicious old woman and her brother are ancient and mad magic users who once helped to burn half the continent in a war for control, she just goes with the flow and keeps her as a councilor. After all, she isn't decisive enough to make any decisions, so she needs a madwoman to help her do it. After Adare learns that the Kennerang is the man who murdered who father, and a cesstriim who wants the entire human race to end, she throws in with him. When the old madwoman has the Kennerang's life in her hands, she argues to let him live. She argues to let the man who killed her father and as far as she knows her brothers too, live! Good choice Adare.

I have only one way to interpret Adare's actions. She wants to be emperor, and she knows that she can't do it alone. like the stupid and the weak have always done, she clings to someone more competent than herself hoping that she can use his power to meet that goal. She defends him against the woman who has told her that he is the one who created the mad super-mages that once leveled entire cities, then, when Valyn of the watery brain, scion of the ancient and god-born bloodline of the Malkeenian dynasty comes to kill him, she stabs her brother in the back. This is only the worst of her ugly behavior though. Adare, like Kaden has no problem throwing her lot in with enemies. Her solution to the usurpation of her father's throne is not to find her brother the heir, but to go to the religious zealots who want their church to rule the empire and ask them for help. Adare's every action points to the idea that she wants to sit on the throne at any cost. Her brothers are nothing to her ( they aren't too concerned about their siblings either, so don't feel sorry for them) and she seems to accept news of Kadens death with relief.

I can't go on about Adare any longer.

You will notice that the bulk of this review is focused on character. It is impossible to describe how much the dislike of these three influenced my outlook on this book, so I won;t try to detail it here, I think the diatribe above gives a good idea anyway. My final gripe is a huge one, because I am a long time fan of the Lord of the Rings. We have all seen the videos, blogs and comics asking why Gandalf didn't just call the eagles and ride them to Mordor to destroy the rings, and some of it is very funny, right? Well, where were the explosive wielding, bird riding Kettral during the battle with the Urghal? Can you imagine the effect that barrels of explosives, dropped from on high would have on a massed army of barbarians? It would be something like the second Iraq war, wouldn't it? Those soldiers had guns and at least some discipline, and they broke almost instantly under airborne bombardment. But this great general didn't bother to use them in the battle, instead he used bizarre tactics that involved mostly sacrificing various units of troops to win. Makes sense right?

I won't be buying the third book. After the first book, I wrote a scathing review on audible, but still bought the second book, because I thought the characters had so much room to grow, and I respected the author's command of prose and the narrators skill at making even the worst text seem interesting and refined. Then I bought this book, and learned that character growth does not exist in this author's world, and that bad plotting is something that he did not have the ability to cure.

I can't recommend this book to anyone.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful