Thursday, December 31, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

The sequel to The Emperor's Blades is The Providence of Fire. This is book 2 in The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy written by Brian Staveley. Staveley deservedly won the Gemmel Morningstar Award for Best Debut fantasy Novel for The Emperor's Blades and has since signed a new contract to write four more books set in the same Universe that this young author dreamed up.

The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne is set in the Annurian Empire, in a world which basically has Bronze Age technology with the slight twist that there exist giant birds called kettrals which are large enough to allow a half-dozen full-grown men travel far distances riding them, And there are people called "leaches" who are able to perform magical feats (such as telekinesis, pyrokinesis, super-strength, etc) by "kenning" when they are close to the source of their power (called a "well.") Leaches are feared for their incredible powers but also socially stigmatized as evil and disgusting freaks of nature by the general public. Oh and there is a whole pantheon of gods, some of whom are actually walking around now and appear to be very interested in eliminating humans.

But enough about the setting, let's talk about the plot! As I mentioned above, this is the second book in the series (which is ostensibly a trilogy) and the story primarily follows the three children of the recently murdered Emperor Sanlitun Malkeenian: Adare, the eldest, the daughter who grew up among the trappings of royalty and knows the contours of the corridors of power in the Dawn Palace; Kaden, the eldest son and heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has spent the last 8 years or so being trained by monks to practice a form of mental discipline that will allow him to use a network of secret gates that will allow him to instantly be transported all over the Empire; and Valyn, the youngest and most physically capable of the three Malkeenian children, he has been training to become a Kettral fighter.

In Book 1, Adare appeared to be more of an afterthought as the story was told primarily from the perspective of the boys Kaden and Valyn. However in Book 2, Adare's point-of-view is front and center and this is a good thing. In fact, basically everything is better in Book 2, the plot is more intricate, the peril is more thrilling and the secondary characters are even more interesting. Some of these secondary characters are Pyrre (the matronly worshipper of the Blank God who is also a deadly assassin), Rampuri Tan (the erstwhile monk who is also incredibly skilled with a double-headed axe) and Triste (the potential concubine who may also be the earthly manifestation of a Goddess).

In fact, the question at the heart of the book involves these gods, called csestriim, and what their plans are for humanity. The plot focusses on the many plans and machinations of several players as they vie for control of the Unhewn Throne and the Annurian Empire.

Overall, The Providence of Fire is incredibly exciting, absolutely enthralling and exceedingly addictive. I can't wait until the story concludes with The Last Mortal Bond.

The Providence of Fire.
Brian Staveley.
Paperback: 607 pages.
 Tor Books.
Date Published: January 15, 2015.
Date Read: July 25, 2015.

OVERALL GRADE: A (4.0/4.0).


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