Five years have past since the dramatic conclusion to Brian’s previous series The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne. Annur is on the edge of ruin, the Kettral are down to there last few birds, and the war is breaking out in different sections of the empire. Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne accomplished so much in terms of worldbuilding, establishing the magic of Leeches, introducing us to the Csestriim, and the difficulties of being a Kettral. The Empire’s Ruin drastically expands on that worldbuilding and takes us to parts of the world we have never been before. When the empire is falling to ashes make sure you are the one holding the flamethrower. This will be a spoiler free review but I will be discussing events from the first trilogy.
To start, I need to say please DO NOT read The Empire’s Ruin if you have not read the original trilogy at least. Several important events will be spoiled for you and the personal connections felt for our main characters will not be full realized. Gwenna Sharpe is a commander of a Kettral unit and is responsible for the last remaining giant bird in the empire. When the mission she is on fails, Gwenna not only loses the bird but her rank in the Kettral and no longer serves the empire. When Gwenna is brought before the emperor for punishment, Adare has something different in mind. The Kettral birds come from a land to the south know as Menkiddoc and Gwenna is tasked to bring back Kettral eggs to restock the ranks once again. The journey is dangerous not only because of the sea voyage, but the land itself. Riddled with ancient temples, structures build by the Csestriim, and a great sickness that infects the land from centuries ago. By far the most exciting story line to follow and nothing will prepare your for the shocking revelations to come.
Ruc is a new POV and resides in the city of Dombang. To say Dombang is terrifying place to live would be an understatement as the city is riddled with crime, gangs, and fights. Ruk is a priest and we see a different of interaction with the Annur than any previous interaction. Ruk sees first hand how the failure of the Annurian empire has affected citizens and how many have to scavenge to pick up the pieces. I won’t go into too much detail involving Ruk but his relationship with Bien throughout the story was always engaging and always left me wanting more.
The final POV we meet is Akiil and readers of the original trilogy will know him all too well. Akiil was a Shin monk and friends with Kaden in The Emperor’s Blades. I won’t go over the details of that book but we haven’t heard from Akiil since until now. Playing his part as a thief and con artist, Akiil uses his past relationship with Kaden (The emperor’s brother) to gain entry into the palace to teach Adare how to use the Kenta gates. Kenta gates are artifacts left behind by the Csestriim to transport anyone from one corner of the globe to another. What Akiil discovers when using the gates for the first time will change everything not only for him but the empire as well. Akiil story lines is another reason why you shouldn’t skip the first trilogy. Several scenes that took place before are reflected upon with new light and information that will make your head spin and I love stories that take snippets from the past and just build on them. You are all in for a treat!
As with Brian’s previous works, the writing is superb and engrossing in every possible way. Tensions were high pretty much throughout the whole story and didn’t let go until the end. Deeply inspired by the Asian culture, The Empire’s Ruin looks into the repercussions of absolute power and how it can affect people differently. It is also of story of remembering the horrible deeds of the past and how they can come back to haunt you lest the cycle repeat itself once again. It has been four years since Brian Staveley has published his previous book and I can honestly say that this is the best one yet. I just hope the next one doesn’t take another four years to come forth. Read The Empire’s Ruin as it will be in your top reads of 2021 for sure.