Out this week on Tor, The Providence of Fire is the second instalment of Brian Staveley’s epic fantasy series The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne.
The first instalment, The Emperor’s Blades, drew Staveley many a favourable comparison to Tolkien and current fantasy flavour-of-the-month, George R R Martin.
Picking up where The Emperor’s Blades left off, we follow the Emperor-elect, Kaden, his brother, a soldier, Valyn and his sister, Minister Adare, as they continue their journeys to uncover the truth behind the political upheaval in Annuria and avenge the death of their father.
The first thing you’ll notice about The Providence of Fire is the size of the book. Weighing in at a whopping 606 pages it’s a longer read than its predecessor. It’s necessary, though, because this is one complex narrative with a hell of a lot going on. Those who felt that The Emperor’s Blades hinted at a much larger plot to come were absolutely right and much of it comes crashing to the fore in The Providence of Fire.
Staveley is an accomplished writer and whilst the plot may be complicated and complex, it is not a difficult book to read. He writes descriptive and heart-pounding battle scenes as effectively as he does sinister political machinations and, you can be assured, there is plenty of both to hold the reader’s fascination. As such Adare is afforded more page-time in this book than before as we follow her further in her quest find her father’s killer, but her motivations will be questioned as she makes some surprising and difficult decisions before the end of the book.
As you might expect Kaden – who is, technically the Emperor at this point – has a lot to do here as fights to claim his birthright, although as he grows as a character and adapts more fully to his situation he may leave you wondering, before you reach page 606, if this is the same Kaden we journeyed with in The Emperor’s Blades.
Despite featuring heavily in the beginning Valyn gradually fades into the background, leaving the stage open for his brother and sister and waiting for an opportunity so set his plans in motion. When we do visit him and his comrades, it is the secondary characters who drive the narrative forward. I would expect to see Valyn play a greater role in book 3.
Keeping up the tradition set by The Wheel of Time and followed by A Song of Ice and Fire, the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne will keep you guessing. There are plots and counter-plots, schemes and puzzles, magic, gods old and gods new, marching armies and unexpected threats from political, military and even spiritual quarters.
By the time I was finished I had my doubts as to whose version of events were genuine, if any. Was the Emperor’s murder the as simple as it first appeared be, an attempt to seize the Annurian throne? Or was it the opening gambit of a much greater plan? One on whose success or failure the very future of the Annurian Empire hangs? The Providence of Fire is out now; read it before HBO get their hands on it. You will not regret it.