I requested this book without even reading the book-blurb because a friend (Thank you Litchick!!!) told me, while still in the middle of reading it, that it was the best fantasy book she'd read in a long time. Fantasy is my home in genre novels, I come back to it time and time again because it's comfortable, exciting, interesting, detailed and emotional. So I started The Emperor's Blades with incredibly high expectations and excitement.
I was absolutely and thoroughly Blown.Away. This book is amazing. I highlighted dozens of moments throughout this book, was on the edge of my seat for most of it, and was absolutely enthralled the entire journey.
The intricate, sweeping story that follows the Malkeenian royal line - two brothers and a sister maneuvering between, around and through plots to take the Unhewn Throne from them - is full of intrigue and twists, danger and valor, despair and determination. I can't even do this justice, but I will say it's only the second book to surprise me so completely and throw twists at me I didn't even see coming. After I spent a good portion of the book detailing theories in my head, only to be wrong most of the time, the final twist absolutely blew my mind.
Kaden, Valyn, and Adare are some of my favorite characters - I was utterly and completely on their side from the very first moments we met each of them. Though I admit Valyn, the warrior, is my favorite, I love all three of them. As I was reading I was eager to see them succeed, to beat the insurmountable odds stacked against them, and terrified that they wouldn't. They aren't infalliable. They aren't perfect. They are, however, absolutely loyal, strong, intelligent, and full of determination. Thank goodness, because this war is going to test the depths of their resolve. Additionally, there are more than a few other characters that I'm dying to know more about. Those for, and against, the emperor both.
I can't end this review without speaking of the writing itself in The Emperor's Blades. I primarily read for characters, then world, then plot. Prose is important, the way the words are strung together can make or break a story, but it's often the last thing I consider when I decide how much I like a story or not. And if the story here hadn't been so utterly fantastic, if the characters hadn't been so completely intriguing, the world so fascinating - then the words that formed it wouldn't have delighted me so much. But Brian Staveley did something amazing here. He weaved words together in beautiful sentences, gorgeous paragraphs, and painted me a picture that I couldn't look away from. As engrossed as I was in the story, as much as I had to know what was going to happen next, I still stopped and had to re-read a section that was so arresting, so gorgeous, that I couldn't go on without appreciating it for a second, or third, time.
Part of the journey is complete in The Emperor's Blades, but it's clear there's a lot left to be told. And I, for one, couldn't be happier.