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.
Brian Staveley is an American fantasy writer. He has written an epic fantasy trilogy, The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne, as well as a prequel novel, Skullsworn, in addition to short fiction.
This is not a small book by any means and it is epic in scale. Taking several disparate characters and slowly bringing their plots together, from priests turned pit fighters, a monk who used to be a thief, and a hero who just wants to be left alone to wallow in her guilt. There’s an army coming for the crumbling Annur empire, for the city state of Dombang, for everyone, only no one is entirely sure what this army looks like, where it will come from or when. But there’s likely to be monsters.
I liked Ruc and Bien, priests of the goddess of love, Eira, captured after their temple is destroyed, dragged off to inevitable death. But they’re both fighters in their own ways, resilient and brave. Ruc has already survived a childhood raised by feral gods, out in the Delta, he is determined that he won’t die in the city’s annual blood fest.
I also liked Gwenna, I totally understood her guilt and anger and frustration. The Emperor sends her off to the end of the world as a punishment, and not only does she somehow manage to find the nests of the kettral (huge hawks that were trained to fly soldiers into battle) that might just save the empire, but she ends up doing so much more. When she really doesn’t want to.
Each story unfolds slowly, which there’s plenty of room to do in almost 800 pages, but you need the detail, to really get to know the characters and root for them as they struggle against seemingly impossible odds and put their all into staying alive and seeing things through.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.