The Emperor's Blades [NOOK Book]

Overview


In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, the emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.

Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote ...

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The Emperor's Blades

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Overview


In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, the emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.

Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, learning the enigmatic discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power he must master before it's too late.

An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral, elite soldiers who fly into battle on gigantic black hawks. But before he can set out to save Kaden, Valyn must survive one horrific final test.

At the heart of the empire, Minister Adare, elevated to her station by one of the emperor's final acts, is determined to prove herself to her people. But Adare also believes she knows who murdered her father, and she will stop at nothing—and risk everything—to see that justice is meted out.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 11/15/2013
When the emperor of Annur is assassinated, his three children do what they must to survive as well as to track down their father's killer. The eldest son and heir to the Unhewn Throne, Kaden, has lived for eight years in a monastery undergoing rigorous training and discipline to hone all his skills. His younger brother, Valyn, trains with the warriors and assassins who ride the gigantic hawks of the Kettral. Their sister Adair, elevated to the position of Minister of Finance in one of her father's final acts, remains at court, surrounded by intrigue. As the three siblings face their individual challenges, they also gain abilities that may help them find justice and avenge their father's death. VERDICT In this epic fantasy debut, Staveley has created a complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets. Readers of Sara Douglass's Wayfarer novels and George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series should enjoy this opener.
Publishers Weekly
11/04/2013
Debut novelist Staveley introduces a trio of royal offspring separated by distance, training, and the conspiracy that killed their father in this quick-paced, multithreaded fantasy. Kaden, the murdered emperor’s heir, struggles to master the monastic mental discipline that will allow him to control ancient teleportation gates. Valyn, learning to command a bird-borne military unit, must pass initiation and fly to Kaden’s rescue. Adare, their sister, remains in the capital as the head minister of finance and leads the trial against the accused killer. All three find unexpected allies and painful betrayals as a threat long thought dead comes to light. Staveley puts his protagonists to the test and is wise enough to allow them shortcomings even as they develop extraordinary abilities. While the background material and the system of magic are complicated, enough details are leaked to help the reader cope. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"A complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets. Readers of Sara Douglass's Wayfarer novels and George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series should enjoy this opener."

Library Journal, Starred Review and Debut of the Month

"Will hold your attention until the last page. This intense novel is impossible to put down."

RT Book Reviews (4 stars)

“A vivid and visceral universe.... Real, solid, and compelling.”

—Christie Golden, New York Times bestselling author of Arthas: Rise of the Lich King

“An exciting first salvo involving Machiavellian politics...an intriguing world of magic, and three protagonists whose personal journeys will keep the reader impatiently waiting for the next book!”

—Richard A. Knaak, New York Times bestselling author of The Legend of Huma

 

“A complex and fast-moving fantasy set in a world where treachery and intrigue are everywhere.”

—L. E. Modesitt Jr., New York Times bestselling author of The Imager Portfolio

“Come for the intrigue, assassination, death priests, black-ops bird riders, and giant poisonous hive-lizards. Stay for Staveley's characters, his language, and his way-cool fantasy Zen.”

—Max Gladstone, author of Three Parts Dead

“Takes a story of family, loss, conspiracy and revenge and gives it new legs. It’s epic fantasy with a sharp, jagged edge to it, a modern sensibility, prose as tight as the leather wrapped around a sword’s hilt, and characters that you can relate to and give a damn about. I look forward to the next installment of Staveley’s chronicle.”

—R. S. Belcher, author of The Six-Gun Tarot

“Staveley brings together a richly imagined world and vibrant characters, and serves them up with monks and monsters, tension and treachery—an exhilarating adventure.”

—Elspeth Cooper, author of Songs of the Earth

“A vividly imagined story of conspiracy and empire.”

—Col Buchanan, author of Farlander

 

Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-07
A political coup and an ancient menace threaten the stability of a vast empire in the first volume of a new series. The emperor of Annur has been assassinated, and his children may be next. The eldest, Adare, chief finance minister, can't rule, since women don't sit on the Unhewn Throne. However, as the only sibling in the Dawn Palace, she takes it upon herself to seek justice for her father, if only she can discover a way to prove his alleged murderer's guilt. Her brother Kaden does not yet know that he is emperor, as he has spent the last several years at an isolated monastery, learning mental disciplines whose utility will soon become apparent. The youngest, Valyn, is eager to rush to his brother's aid, but he must complete his training in an elite military corps first—and root out the threat against his own life. Although the general outline of the story may seem familiar to experienced epic fantasy readers, the worldbuilding is solid, appealing and fairly assured for a debut. The rituals of the Kettral (the fantasy equivalent of Navy SEALs), who use giant predatory birds to travel to their missions, worship at an oak tree covered in blood-sucking bats and whose graduation exam involves seeking the eggs of vicious, sightless lizards within their underground lair, are particularly well-imagined. And if the momentum is a bit slow to build, it seems likely that Staveley is merely putting his pieces in place for what will no doubt be an intriguingly complex and bloody game. Worth sticking around to see what comes next.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466828438
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 1/14/2014
  • Series: Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne , #1
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 7,382
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author


Brian Staveley has an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. He works as an editor for Antilever Press, and has published poetry and essays, both in print and on-line. The Emperor's Blades is his first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

1

The sun hung just over the peaks, a silent, furious ember drenching the granite cliffs in a bloody red, when Kaden found the shattered carcass of the goat.

He’d been dogging the creature over the tortuous mountain trails for hours, scanning for track where the ground was soft enough, making guesses when he came to bare rock, doubling back when he guessed wrong. It was slow work and tedious, the kind of task the older monks delighted in assigning to their pupils. As the sun sank and the eastern sky purpled to a vicious bruise, he started to wonder if he would be spending the night in the high peaks with only his roughspun robe for comfort. Spring had arrived weeks earlier according to the Annurian calendar, but the monks didn’t pay any heed to the calendar and neither did the weather, which remained hard and grudging. Scraps of dirty snow lingered in the long shadows, cold seeped from the stones, and the needles of the few gnarled junipers were still more gray than green.

“Come on, you old bastard,” he muttered, checking another track. “You don’t want to sleep out here any more than I do.”

The mountains comprised a maze of cuts and canyons, washed-out gullies and rubble-strewn ledges. Kaden had already crossed three streams gorged with snowmelt, frothing at the hard walls that hemmed them in, and his robe was damp with spray. It would freeze when the sun dropped. How the goat had made its way past the rushing water, he had no idea.

“If you drag me around these peaks much longer…,” he began, but the words died on his lips as he spotted his quarry at last—thirty paces distant, wedged in a narrow defile, only the hindquarters visible.

Although he couldn’t get a good look at the thing—it seemed to have trapped itself between a large boulder and the canyon wall—he could tell at once that something was wrong. The creature was still, too still, and there was an unnaturalness to the angle of the haunches, the stiffness in the legs.

“Come on, goat,” he murmured as he approached, hoping the animal hadn’t managed to hurt itself too badly. The Shin monks were not rich, and they relied on their flocks for milk and meat. If Kaden returned with an animal that was injured, or worse, dead, his umial would impose a severe penance.

“Come on, old fellow,” he said, working his way slowly up the canyon. The goat appeared stuck, but if it could run, he didn’t want to end up chasing it all over the Bone Mountains. “Better grazing down below. We’ll walk back together.”

The evening shadows hid the blood until he was nearly standing in it, the pool wide and dark and still. Something had gutted the animal, hacked a savage slice across the haunch and into the stomach, cleaving muscle and driving into the viscera. As Kaden watched, the last lingering drops of blood trickled out, turning the soft belly hair into a sodden, ropy mess, running down the stiff legs like urine.

“’Shael take it,” he cursed, vaulting over the wedged boulder. It wasn’t so unusual for a crag cat to take a goat, but now he’d have to carry the carcass back to the monastery across his shoulders. “You had to go wandering,” he said. “You had…”

The words trailed off, and his spine stiffened as he got a good look at the animal for the first time. A quick cold fear blazed over his skin. He took a breath, then extinguished the emotion. Shin training wasn’t good for much, but after eight years, he had managed to tame his feelings; fear, envy, anger, exuberance—he still felt them, but they did not penetrate so deeply as they once had. Even within the fortress of his calm, however, he couldn’t help but stare.

Whatever had gutted the goat did not stop there. Some creature—Kaden struggled in vain to think of what—had hacked the animal’s head from its shoulders, severing the strong sinew and muscle with sharp, brutal strokes until only the stump of the neck remained. Crag cats would take the occasional flagging member of a herd, but not like this. These wounds were vicious, unnecessary, lacking the quotidian economy of other kills he had seen in the wild. The animal had not simply been slaughtered; it had been destroyed.

Kaden cast about, searching for the rest of the carcass. Stones and branches had washed down with the early spring floods and lodged at the choke point of the defile in a weed-matted mess of silt and skeletal wooden fingers, sun-bleached and grasping. So much detritus clogged the canyon that it took him a while to locate the head, which lay tossed on its side a few paces distant. Much of the hair had been torn away and the bone split open. The brain was gone, scooped from the trencher of the skull as though with a spoon.

Kaden’s first thought was to flee. Blood still dripped from the goat’s gory coat, more black than red in the fading light, and whatever had mauled it could still be in the rocks, guarding its kill. None of the local predators would be likely to attack Kaden—he was tall for his seventeen years, lean and strong from half a lifetime of labor—but then, none of the local predators would have hacked the head from the goat and eaten its brain either.

He turned toward the canyon mouth. The sun had settled below the steppe, leaving just a burnt smudge above the grasslands to the west. Already night filled the canyon like oil seeping into a bowl. Even if he left immediately, even if he ran at his fastest lope, he’d be covering the last few miles to the monastery in full dark. Though he thought he had long outgrown his fear of night in the mountains, he didn’t relish the idea of stumbling along the rock-strewn path, an unknown predator following in the darkness.

He took a step away from the shattered creature, then hesitated.

“Heng’s going to want a painting of this,” he muttered, forcing himself to turn back to the carnage.

Anyone with a brush and a scrap of parchment could make a painting, but the Shin expected rather more of their novices and acolytes. Painting was the product of seeing, and the monks had their own way of seeing. Saama’an, they called it: “the carved mind.” It was only an exercise, of course, a step on the long path leading to the ultimate liberation of vaniate, but it had its meager uses. During his eight years in the mountains, Kaden had learned to see, to really see the world as it was: the track of a brindled bear, the serration of a forksleaf petal, the crenellations of a distant peak. He had spent countless hours, weeks, years looking, seeing, memorizing. He could paint any of a thousand plants or animals down to the last finial feather, and he could internalize a new scene in heartbeats.

He took two slow breaths, clearing a space in his head, a blank slate on which to carve each minute particular. The fear remained, but the fear was an impediment, and he pared it down, focusing on the task at hand. With the slate prepared, he set to work. It took only a few breaths to etch the severed head, the pools of dark blood, the mangled carcass of the animal. The lines were sure and certain, finer than any brushstroke, and unlike normal memory, the process left him with a sharp, vivid image, durable as the stones on which he stood, one he would be able to recall and scrutinize at will. He finished the saama’an and let out a long, careful breath.

Fear is blindness, he muttered, repeating the old Shin aphorism. Calmness, sight.

The words provided cold comfort in the face of the bloody scene, but now that he had the carving, he could leave. He glanced once over his shoulder, searching the cliffs for some sign of the predator, then turned toward the opening of the defile. As the night’s dark fog rolled over the peaks, he raced the darkness down the treacherous trails, sandaled feet darting past the downed limbs and ankle-breaking rocks. His legs, chill and stiff after so many hours creeping after the goat, warmed to the motion while his heart settled into a steady tempo.

You’re not running away, he told himself, just heading home.

Still, he breathed a small sigh of relief a mile down the path when he rounded a tower of rock—the Talon, the monks called it—and could make out Ashk’lan in the distance. Thousands of feet below him, the scant stone buildings perched on a narrow ledge as though huddled away from the abyss. Warm lights glowed in some of the windows. There would be a fire in the refectory kitchen, lamps kindled in the meditation hall, the quiet hum of the Shin going about their evening ablutions and rituals. Safe. The word rose unbidden to his mind. It was safe down there, and despite his resolve, Kaden increased his pace, running toward those few, faint lights, fleeing whatever prowled the unknown darkness behind him.

Copyright © 2013 by Brian Staveley

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2014

    I'm not an avid reader of fantasy. I have, of course, read The L

    I'm not an avid reader of fantasy. I have, of course, read The Lord of the Rings, and I've dabbled in George RR Martin and Robert Jordan, but never really felt particularly engrossed by or invested in the worlds of those books (Tolkien excepted). It's not that I didn't appreciate them for what they were; I just didn't happen to be the kind of person who naturally gravitated to the genre. But, when I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an advance copy of The Emperor's Blades, I was hooked within the space of a few chapters. The book isn't just great fantasy, it's great all-around writing, with a spectacular and spectacularly portrayed world, very real characters whom I felt I both knew and cared about early in the book, and a juggernaut of a plot that made it pretty impossible to put down. I've spoken to so many friends about this book that they're as annoyed that the release date is still pretty far away as they are at me for bringing it up too much. So, naturally, I had to take to the internet to proselytize it to complete strangers. This is a book I see myself owning a very well-worn and well-loved copy of decades in the future, and enjoying just as much on the umpteenth read-through as I did the first time. It's unusual for me to get this excited about a new series, particularly a new fantasy series, but this one is well worth it--I would have a hard time underselling it.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    A New Favorite

    +Character development- very intricate, excellent pov voice, no mary sues to be found (even in minor characters) 8.5/10
    +Plot- great development, no unnecessary plot lines, good balance between the three main plot lines with a good merger at the end 9/10
    +World building- amazing detail, great consistency, very good imagery 9/10
    +Pace- surprisingly good for 500+ pages, no dull patches or long soliquies 8/10
    +Favorite part- the world was interesting and full of originality, not just a dollhouse of sorts for the characters to romp in
    +Least favorite part- the cussing the author invented was lacking; if you're going to write foul-mouthed soldiers, give their language more than one kent'-kissing cuss word
    +Overall- one of the best fantasy/action books I've ever read, a definite recommend 9/10

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2014

    Read it

    I am an avid reader of scifi, fantasy, and swords. While characters behave somewhat predictably, the story is not. Well worth reading. Look forward to more!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2014

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book.

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2014

    Well told tale, something different in fantasy.

    Excellent characters and well developed story and history.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 20, 2014

    Add this book to your collection. Sets off to be a remarkable se

    Add this book to your collection. Sets off to be a remarkable series. For fans of Michael J Sullivan, Peter V Brett. 

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2014

    Absurd price

    15 dollars for an ebook.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2014

    Why do expensive

    I reallywant to buy this book but the ebook cost more than the paperback. Comeon man

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2014

    This is a good read. You come to care about the characters and i

    This is a good read. You come to care about the characters and it leaves you wanting to pick up the next book in the series as soon as possible to find out what unfolds. Well written, involving, and a new twist on a sinister 'evil' race whose relationship to humanity is startling. Ready for the next one please!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2014

    predictable, formulaic

    The "twists" were pretty obvious. all the characters fit neatly into their molds.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2014

    Great new voice in epic fantasy

    Great characters. Great story. Great start to new series.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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