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Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley


Skullsworn
Author:  Brian Staveley
Series:  Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne World
Publisher:  Tor Books, April 25, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  US$25.99 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765389879 (print); 9780765389893 (eBook)

Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess-assassin for the God of Death.

“Brilliant.” —V. E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author

From the award-winning epic fantasy world of The Emperor’s Blades

Pyrre Lakatur is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer—she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. The problem, rather, is love. For to complete her trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the seven people enumerated in an ancient song, including “the one who made your mind and body sing with love / who will not come again.”

Pyrre isn’t sure she’s ever been in love. And if she fails to find someone who can draw such passion from her, or fails to kill that someone, her order will give her to their god, the God of Death. Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail, and so, as her trial is set to begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love . . . and ending it on the edge of her sword.

"A complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets." —Library Journal, starred review, on The Emperor's Blades



Tracey's/Trinitytwo's Review

Pyrre Lakatur must kill seven people in fourteen days or she will die. Pyrre however, is not afraid of death- rather, she is troubled by the thought of failure. Killing seven people would be easy for Pyrre, who belongs to a religion known among the populace as Skullsworn. She is accomplished in the many ways a life can be offered to Ananshael, the God of Death. However, to become a priestess, she must adhere to certain requirements; one of which is to kill the individual she loves. Love is something Pyrre has never experienced, so in desperation she has chosen Dombâng, the city of her youth for her Trial. There she will attempt to rekindle the passion she shared with former lover, Ruc Lan Lac, who now presides as constable over the troubled city. Accompanying Pyrre as witnesses are vivacious and deadly Ela, a legendary priestess of her order, and Kossal, a gruff older priest. Her Trial hinges on the hope that Ruc will let her get close enough so they can fall in love. Then she can kill him.

Skullsworn is set in the world of Brian Staveley's Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series. Although Pyrre had a part to play in that trilogy, this standalone novel takes place years before those events. I like that Pyrre tells her own narrative in first person. It allows the reader to fully appreciate her history, motivations, and inner workings. She is a distinctive protagonist who is definitely more comfortable with her blades than her emotions. I particularly enjoyed her interactions with Ela, whose lessons are a delightful combination of philosophy, humor, and combat.

The city of Dombâng plays an integral role in the story. It still seethes under the martial law imposed upon it by the Annurian Empire centuries ago. Worship to its fierce gods is outlawed, but its people still believe in the forbidden sacrificial rituals, which leaves it ripe for rebellion. The deadly deltas and marshes that surround it are rife with a plethora of creatures that survive by preying on the weak. I really enjoyed the political intrigues and colorful, yet lethal locations that kept the action progressing in unexpected and exhilarating ways.

Because of her devotion to her deity, Pyrre's heartfelt journey of self-discovery is unlike any that comes to mind. Skullsworn kept me mesmerized from start to finish. I love the story's epilogue; it took me by surprise and left a smile on my face. Brian Staveley is both a master of the English language and an accomplished storyteller which makes this book a pleasure to read. Unique, bold, and exciting, Skullsworn is not to be missed.

Interview with Brian Staveley


Please welcome Brian Staveley to The Qwillery. Skullsworn will be published on April 25, 2017 by Tor Books.



Interview with Brian Staveley




TQWelcome back to The Qwillery again. What appeals to you about writing Epic Fantasy and are there any other genres or subgenres in which you'd like to write?

Brian:  I love the scope of epic fantasy, the chance to include the mythic, the historical, the religious, the philosophical at the same time as writing some bloody battles and backstabbing intrigue. That said, I’m writing a novella now. It’s the first time I’ve worked at that length, and the first time I’ve written anything outside the world of the Unhewn Throne, and I’m loving both the intimacy of the form and the chance to be more stylistically experimental.



TQYou've written 100s of pages in The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe. What is your method for keeping your facts straight?

Brian:  I have no method. I have random documents strewn about my computer that are only vaguely organized. Occasionally I need to go back and dig around in one of my books for some obscure name or fact. I am absolutely certain that there are better, easier, more efficient ways to do this, but no one ever accused me of doing things the easy way.



TQThe 3rd novel in The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne Trilogy, The Last Mortal Bond, was published in 2016, with the Trade Paperback out last month. How did you feel wrapping up that Trilogy?

Brian:  Massive relief. A trilogy is sort of like a hockey game: kicking ass for two periods doesn’t matter if you let everything go to shit in the third. And I’ve read a number of trilogies in which this happens. I’m thrilled that most readers seem to have really enjoyed the conclusion to the tale, that I didn’t inadvertently ruin everything that came before.



TQBut, you've returned to that universe with Skullsworn which is a standalone novel. Where does Skullsworn fit temporally with The Emperor's Blades, The Providence of Fire and The Last Mortal Bond?

BrianSkullsworn is set about twenty years before The Emperor’s Blades, and it takes place in a city—Dombang—that doesn’t appear (outside the occasional, casual mention) in the trilogy at all. It was great having the chance to flesh out the physical world, and also to take a look at the Annurian Empire from a different angle—many inhabitants of Dombang see the Empire as a sinister occupying force. They’re certainly no fans of the Malkeenians.



TQPlease tell us something about Skullsworn that is not found in the book description.

Brian:  The setting is more important to this book than any of the others. Dombang is a city built on a river delta, a city of a thousand bridges and canals, while the delta is teeming with deadly flora and fauna—poisonous plants, venomous snakes, jaguars, crocodiles. I wanted to create a location for this story that felt beautiful but also rotten, hot, and claustrophobic. That’s crucial to the political climate of the city, but also to Pyrre’s personal psychological journey.



TQPyrre Lakatur is the main character in Skullsworn. Where has she appeared in the trilogy?

Brian:  Pyrre is in her mid-forties in the trilogy. She’s a pretty significant secondary character—definitely a fan favorite—but I don’t want to say too much about her for people who haven’t read The Emperor’s Blades. I guess it’s obvious from Skullsworn itself that she is very, very good at killing people. It’s worth mentioning, though, that she’s quite a different character in Skullsworn than in the trilogy—younger, less certain of herself.



TQCan you tell us about the world in which Pyrre finds herself?

Brian:  As I mentioned above, Dombang is nominally part of the Annurian Empire—it was conquered two hundred years before the time in which Skullsworn is set—and yet, unlike most other parts of the empire, Dombang still seethes with revolution. Part of this is due to the city’s isolation. Even more is due to the local religion, which the Annurians have attempted to stamp out. The locals believe that a trinity of brutal, bloody gods inhabits the delta and keeps the city safe. They’re even willing to offer human sacrifice to those gods…



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Skullsworn.

Brian:  Rich Anderson’s cover art for the US version doesn’t depict a specific scene. Our goal was to capture a) something of Pyrre’s character and b) something of the city itself. We actually considered a few versions that had Pyrre front and center in the frame, but those struck me as wrong. Not only does she fight from the shadows, but she’s not emotionally ready to stand in the middle of a book cover when this story takes place. The Pyrre of the trilogy would happily recline straight across the cover, but she’s not there yet in Skullsworn.

The UK cover, by contrast, does a really nice job capturing the feel of the delta. There are no huge cliffs like that, but I like the ambience of the cover, the way it suggests a wild and dangerous world beyond the limits of Dombang.

Interview with Brian Staveley
US Cover
Interview with Brian Staveley
UK Cover


TQWill you be writing more stories set in The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, perhaps bringing back another fan favorite?

Brian:  Absolutely. As soon as I wrap up this novella, I’m getting back to another in-universe stand-alone. This one involves another female character that a lot of readers have grown to love, although I don’t think she’s going to be a POV character in the novel. Stay tuned!



TQThank you for joining us again at The Qwillery!

Brian:  Thanks for having me!





Skullsworn
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne World
Tor Books, April 25, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Brian Staveley
Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess-assassin for the God of Death.

“Brilliant.” —V. E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author

From the award-winning epic fantasy world of The Emperor’s Blades

Pyrre Lakatur is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer—she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. The problem, rather, is love. For to complete her trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the seven people enumerated in an ancient song, including “the one who made your mind and body sing with love / who will not come again.”

Pyrre isn’t sure she’s ever been in love. And if she fails to find someone who can draw such passion from her, or fails to kill that someone, her order will give her to their god, the God of Death. Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail, and so, as her trial is set to begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love . . . and ending it on the edge of her sword.

"A complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets." —Library Journal, starred review, on The Emperor's Blades





About Brian

Interview with Brian Staveley
Author Photo: Laura Swoyer
Brian Staveley is the author of the award-winning fantasy trilogy, The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. After teaching literature, philosophy, history, and religion for more than a decade, he began writing fiction. His first book, The Emperor’s Blades, won the David Gemmell Morningstar Award, the Reddit Stabby for best debut, and scored semi-finalist spots in the Goodreads Choice Awards in two categories: epic fantasy and debut. The entire trilogy, which includes The Providence of Fire and the The Last Mortal Bond has been translated into over ten languages worldwide.

Brian lives on a steep dirt road in the mountains of southern Vermont, where he divides his time between fathering, writing, husbanding, splitting wood, skiing, and adventuring, not necessarily in that order.


Website  ~  Twitter @BrianStaveley  ~  Facebook  ~  Google+





Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne Trilogy

The Emperor's Blades
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 1
Tor Books, August 26, 2014
Trade Paperback, 496 pages
Hardcover and eBook, January 14, 2014

Interview with Brian Staveley
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.

See Tracey's/trinitytwo's Review here.



The Providence of Fire
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 2
Tor Books, December 8, 2015
Trade Paperback, 624 pages
Hardcover and eBook, January 13, 2015

Interview with Brian Staveley
The Providence of Fire is the second novel in Brian Staveley's Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, a gripping new epic fantasy series

The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.

Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy.

Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, a renegade member of the empire's most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.

Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it.

See Tracey's/trinitytwo's Review here.



The Last Mortal Bond
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 3
Tor Books, March 14, 2017
Trade Paperback, 672 pages
Hardcover and eBook, March 15, 2016

Interview with Brian Staveley
The trilogy that began with The Emperor's Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire in Brian Staveley's The Last Mortal Bond

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all--Valyn, Adare, and Kaden--come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

See Tracey's/trinitytwo's Review here.



Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 1 - 3
Tor Books, Dec 6, 2016
eBook Bundle

Interview with Brian Staveley
Includes: The Emperor's Blades, The Providence of Fire, The Last Mortal Bond, and an excerpt from the forthcoming Skullsworn

“An enchanting union of old and new, Staveley's debut will keep you turning pages late into the night.” Pierce Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Red Rising

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.

The Emperor’s Blades — Three siblings: Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery. An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral. At the heart of the empire, Adare hunts those who murdered her father.

The Providence of Fire — Kaden infiltrates the Annurian capital, while Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion compels the rival forces to unite. Unknown to Adare, Valyn has allied with the invading nomads.

The Last Mortal Bond — The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; capricious gods walk the earth in human guise, but the imperial siblings at the heart of it all soon understand that there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne
The Emperor's Blades
The Providence of Fire
The Last Mortal Bond

Other books in the world of the Unhewn Throne
Skullsworn (forthcoming)

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

Review: The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley


The Last Mortal Bond
Author:  Brian Staveley
Series:  Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 3
Publisher:  Tor Books, March 15, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 656 pages
List Price:  $28.99 (print); $14.99 (digital)
ISBN:  9780765336422 (print); 9781466828452 (digital)

Review: The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley
The trilogy that began with The Emperor's Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire in Brian Staveley's The Last Mortal Bond

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all--Valyn, Adare, and Kaden--come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.



Trinitytwo's Point of View

War is consuming the lands and people of Annur. The Csestriim, an ancient and immortal race, have orchestrated events intended to destroy the gods who have flawed their human children.

In the towering heights of Intarra's Spear, Kaden both protects and imprisons Triste, the human vessel for the goddess Ciena. To secure the goddess's ascension to heaven, Triste must willingly participate in a ritual that will free the goddess but extinguish her host's life.

The exiled Emperor Adare and her armies defend against the invasion by the savage race of nomads called Urghul who have rallied under the banner of the warrior, Long Fist. Adare has assumed many mantles since her father's murder; prophet, emperor, mother, murderer. In an effort to save her people she has appointed Csestriim Ran il Tornja as general of her armies. Adare doesn't trust il Tornja but his brilliant war tactics have proven the strongest defense against the legions of Urghul who are hell bent on slaughtering the Annurian race.

The Last Mortal Bond is the magnificent conclusion to a trilogy that is truly a masterpiece of epic fantasy. Brian Staveley has woven an intricate tale that spans the course of three books, culminating in a rich and breathtaking tapestry that is nothing short of perfection.

The Last Mortal Bond unfolds through four main points of view which allows for crucial character development while also revealing far flung events with real time urgency. Part of what makes this story powerful is the depiction of its main characters. Staveley portrays their flaws and strengths with brutal honesty which creates a tangible sense of empathy.

The balance between male and female characters is worth noting. I am impressed with the inclusion of multiple strong and heroic female characters who have major parts to play. Adare, stands out because of her bravery in the face of the unthinkable. Her desperate longing to protect her infant son while attempting to save her Empire resonated strongly with me. The choices she is faced with would break a lesser person. I also grew to love gruff Gwenna, and felt a tremendous sympathy for Triste. Look for Huutsuu, Pyrre and Sigrid as well; they kick major ass.

Staveley is an expert wordsmith. Throughout his detailed descriptions of battles, hand to hand combat, covert missions and other levels of human suffering, Staveley conjures images that are uniquely stark , utterly realistic and at times hauntingly beautiful. His ability to take seemingly minute elements and incorporate them into the greater story to produce a dense and satisfying work, rich in layers and complexities is remarkable.

The Last Mortal Bond is not a lighthearted adventure where the reader envies the heroes; at times I felt sorry for them. Yet faced with choices that are as cruel as the world they are living in, they persevere, and in doing so grace the reader with their strength. A phenomenon like the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne comes along once in a lifetime, so I encourage lovers of high fantasy to read this series sooner rather than later. The Last Mortal Bond is a true masterpiece of imagination, invention, intrigue, and adventure.

Review: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley


The Providence of Fire
AuthorBrian Staveley
Series:  Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 2
Publisher:  Tor Books, January 13, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 608 pages
List Price:  $27.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765336415 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley
The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.

Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace is search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy.

Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire's most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.

Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it



Trinitytwo's Point of View

The Providence of Fire is Book II in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series by Brian Staveley. If you have not yet read the first in this epic fantasy series, do yourself a favor and go buy books 1 & 2 NOW! I guarantee you will thank me later!

The Providence of Fire opens immediately after the events of The Emperor’s Blades. Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, tries to make sense of the treachery behind the political plot that led to his father’s murder, the massacre at the monastery, and his own near assassination. Fearing the involvement of the Csestriim, an immortal and brutal race intent on wiping out humankind, he decides to approach the Ishiens for aid. Tan, Kaden’s mentor, disapproves of this plan as the Ishien, an order of warriors dedicated to hunt and destroy the Csestriim, are violent and loath to trust. Kaden decided to move forward with his plan but in order to reach the Ishien, Kaden must pass through a kenta- a gate that can transport those who know how to use them thousands of miles away. Valyn, Kaden’s brother and leader of a wing of Kettral, pledge to get Kaden and Tan to the nearest gate. Valyn and his Kettral will then fly to the Dawn Palace to find Adare, their sister, gather information and await Kaden’s return.

Back in the capital, Adare is unsure if her brothers are alive or dead. Serving as the Minister of Finance, she has uncovered the identity of her father’s murderer and develops a plan of her own. Risking everything, she attempts to escape the Dawn Palace and seek aid from the militarily strong Sons of Flame, the very group she tried to destroy. Events do not go as planned and the siblings must make rapid decisions based on what is best for the Empire. Each choice causes an effect that ripples the courses of each other’s lives and actions.

Providence of Fire
is superb. This is epic fantasy at its best. This book captivated me from start to finish. Rereading my review for The Emperor’s Blades, I coined a term “the quicksand effect” because reading that book completely sucked me in. If possible, The Providence of Fire was even more powerful for its quicksand effect. Staveley’s characters are thoroughly fleshed out and vibrant. Faced with do or die decisions, the trio of siblings with their quick minds and very different educations make believable and hard decisions that the reader may not always agree with but can understand and empathize with. I wasn’t sure about how I would feel towards the 4th POV introduced in this story. However, tough as nails, Gwenna, a member of Valyn’s Kettral wing, was a welcome addition to this story. My one fault with The Emperor’s Blades was that the female POV was given scant attention; not so in The Providence of Fire. The four POVs inform the reader from both the male and female perspectives and kept me totally captivated.

Brian Staveley completely caught me unaware with this book. I really liked The Emperor’s Blades and I expected to “really like” The Providence of Fire. What I didn’t expect was that this installment would kick it up a couple notches and make this story a must read! I’ve given myself time to reflect because sometimes I get caught coming off a book and the adrenaline and excitement entices me to rate it slightly higher than I might normally. It’s been over a month and my love for this book has not diminished. The Providence of Fire is an exceptional read and it’s my book to beat for the best fantasy of 2015.

Review: The Emperor's Blades by Brian Stavely


The Emperor's Blades
Author:  Brian Staveley
Series:  Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 1
Publisher:  Tor Books, January 14, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 480 pages
Price:  $27.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765336408 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher
Will be published in Trade Paperback on August 26, 2014

Review:  The Emperor's Blades by Brian Stavely
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.



Trinitytwo’s point of view

Annur has been ruled by the golden-eyed descendants of the goddess, Intarra, for centuries. The current Emperor, Salintun has three children, Adare, his daughter, has put her clever wit to use studying the politics of the Imperial city. His heir, Kaden, at the age of ten, was sent far away to the austere Ashk’lan monastery set deep in the Bone Mountains to apprentice to the Shin monks. Living there for eight years has taught him discipline and brought about great clarity, however he has not yet mastered the vaniate; the emptying of the mind. The youngest, Valyn, was sent to the Kettral, an elite and brutal fighting squad that soar on their oversized birds of prey during their black-ops missions. Still a cadet, he has one more deadly obstacle to face before becoming full Kettral, Hull’s Trial. When the unthinkable occurs and their father is murdered, the empire is thrust into jeopardy. It falls on the three siblings to uncover the cunning and unscrupulous plot and most importantly stay alive in the process.

The Emperor’s Blades, book one in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, lays the groundwork for a grand epic fantasy. The world building is fascinating and is propelled by the three main characters’ points of view. This allows the story to progress rapidly while giving the reader unique POVs through which to digest the complicated workings, historic facts, and political machinations the siblings face. Added to the mix are some scary and awesome indigenous and non-indigenous creatures which insert another compelling layer of excitement into the story. I was sucked into the novel’s world from the very first chapter of The Emperor’s Blades. Much like quicksand, the story grabbed me and drew me in steadily. I didn’t struggle however; I willingly let the pages envelop me until I was totally immersed. I’ve dubbed this phenomenon the 'quicksand effect' and I urge fantasy lovers to buy The Emperor’s Blades and experience it for themselves.

Guest Blog by Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades - February 10, 2014


Please welcome Brian Staveley to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Emperor's Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 1) was published on January 14, 2014 by Tor Books.




Guest Blog by Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades - February 10, 2014




Marital Fights and Elevator Pitches: Occasion Versus Subject

My favorite part about marital squabbles is the moment I try to explain them later to an impartial observer. “So, what was the fight about?” my buddy asks. I take a confident slug of my beer, certain of the legitimacy of my grievance, the lamentable errors of my lovely wife, and start in: “Well, first, she said that I should dry the glasses in the drying rack upside down…”

Usually it only takes a sentence or two for that initial confidence to wane. I’m relating the argument just as it happened, and yet, some of the gravitas seems to have slipped away.

“… and then I didn’t want paprika on the burgers…”

I blunder along, powered by stubbornness as the sense of true purpose starts to flag.

“…said the dog leash should be blue, not black…”

All the while my friend just watches, eyebrows raised. If he’s feeling charitable, when I finally putter out he’ll say, “That sucks,” in a tone of voice that makes it clear that a minor dispute over dish-drying, hamburgers, and dog collars does not, in fact, suck at all, at least not to anyone with the slightest bit of perspective about the real world.

The problem, of course, beyond my own occasional lack of perspective, is the question itself – What was the fight about? – and that terminal preposition in particular. We tend to respond to that imperfect word – about – with the specifics, the poorly dried wine glasses, rather than the emotional core of the matter. In a way, this makes sense. People who are capable of saying, “We were arguing about mutual respect, and the difficulties involved in any communication where the partners are unaware or unable to articulate the divergence in their priorities,” are not the same people who get into arguments about the drying of wine glasses.

Interestingly, you encounter essentially the same question when pitching a novel: So, what’s your book about? I’ve had the chance to respond to this about fifty thousand times in the past year, and I have the answer down: Three adult children of a murdered emperor – a monk, an imperial minister, and an elite soldier – struggle to untangle the conspiracy behind their father’s death while trying to stay alive long enough to complete their own training.

As in the case of the marital squabble, however, the answer is both perfectly accurate, and crap. It captures the central characters and conflict readily enough, but if I pause for a moment, I wonder whether characters and conflict really constitute the core of a book.

Before turning to fantasy, I spent a long time writing and reading poetry, a genre where it is common to distinguish between a poem’s occasion and its subject. Take John Keats’ great late ode, To Autumn. What’s it about? Autumn, dumbass.

But, of course, autumn is just the occasion of the poem; it’s about something different, or at least something more than the coming on of a new season. Helen Vendler (who is, in my estimation, the best living critic of poetry) has a whole long chapter of a book exploring this very question, and even she doesn’t seem to exhaust the answer.

Of course, there are drawbacks to discussing your own work in these terms. Chief among them, obviously, is that you look like an asshole. Just as important, however, is the interesting fact that, even as the author of a book, you might not know what it’s really about. That is to say, you understand the occasion, the characters and incidents that make up the plot, while the emotional, psychological, and thematic ligatures connecting those objective elements, animating them, remain a mystery.

I’m putting the final touches now on The Providence of Fire, the sequel to The Emperor’s Blades. It wasn’t until I’d written the entire book, then gone back to read through it, that I started to understand what was going on beneath all the battles and backstabbing, secrets and betrayals. I thought I’d written a book about the emotional ramifications of failure. In fact, the whole thing is about family, duty, and sacrifice.

Who knew? Certainly not me, not when I set out to write the thing. I understood what it was about, but not what it was about. Of course, I’ve now had the opportunity to go back and revise, to develop and shape the story with this realization in mind, and the book is the better for it.

The real trick now, is to apply this knowledge when I put the wine glasses in the drying rack the wrong way.





The Emperor's Blades

The Emperor's Blades
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 1
Tor Books, January 14, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 480 pages

Guest Blog by Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades - February 10, 2014
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.


Chapters 1 - 7 are presently available as a free download from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes.





About Brian

Guest Blog by Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades - February 10, 2014
I live on a steep dirt road in mountains of southern Vermont, where I divide my time between fathering, writing, husbanding, splitting wood, skiing, and adventuring, not necessarily in that order. After teaching high school (literature, philosophy, history, religion) for a decade, I finally committed to writing epic fantasy. My first book, The Emperor’s Blades, is the start of a series (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne), forthcoming from Tor in early 2014. Tor.com has been good enough to release the first seven chapters as a teaser that can be found here: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/11/read-the-emperors-blades-by-brian-staveley. I’m on Twitter at @BrianStaveley, Facebook as bstaveley, and Google+ as Brian Staveley.





Website  ~  Twitter @BrianStaveley  ~  Facebook  ~  Google+

Interview with Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades - January 14, 2014


Please welcome Brian Staveley to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Emperor's Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 1) was published today. A very Happy Publication Day to Brian!



Interview with Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades - January 14, 2014




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Brian:  Well, if you don’t count Anty’s Avinchir, the dashing three-page illustrated tale of a young ant who sets out on a (very brief) series of escapades before returning home to his parents, I started writing seriously in college. In those days, though, I worked almost exclusively with poetry (I know, I know, horrible career move), both writing and translating. After grad school (more poetry), I took a really great job teaching history, religion, and English, and, while at that job, I started writing fantasy.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Brian:  Neither, really. I know where each book (and character) is headed, but I don’t have an outline that says, “By page 42 Character A should be dead and Character B should be having a beer.” There are writers who can work that way, but I’d miss out on most of my good ideas, which seem to come up in the process of writing. I’ll be working through a chunk of dialogue, for instance, thinking I’m headed one direction, and suddenly the characters will be arguing about some other issue entirely. I want them to be plotting to take the castle gate and instead some asshole has a hankering to get in an argument about the beer. I guess if I were a true pantser I’d scrap the original direction and follow the beer angle. Instead, I try to see how this new thread fits into the larger tapestry.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Where do you write?

Brian:  The most challenging thing about writing is doing the damn writing. You read about authors all the time who say, “Oh, I couldn’t not write. If I go a day without writing I start to lose it.”

I happen to be excellent at not writing. There are all sorts of competing attractions: sledding with my son, drinking wine with my wife, making bonfires with friends, skiing, reading, splitting wood, playing board games and drinking beer… Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy writing, but I have to be ever-vigilant about carving out a chunk of time for it each day. Otherwise, it’ll never get done.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Brian:  Influences are tricky things to nail down. The people I wish had influenced me probably haven’t, and I’m certain that there are hundreds of influences at work every day that I don’t begin to suspect. I shudder to think of all the hours I’ve spent reading the back of cereal boxes.

As for favorite authors? There are too many to count. Ursula K. Le Guin is second to none in my personal fantasy pantheon. Outside the genre, I’ve been just floored by Hilary Mantel recently. And then there’s J.M. Coetzee, although he seems to be hitting the same note a lot these last few books. Or Kay Ryan, if we’re talking poetry; I don’t think there’s anyone writing better poems these days. One of the disappointing things about writing so much is that I read less than I used to, and I really feel the loss.



TQ:  Describe The Emperor's Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 1) in 140 characters or less.

Brian:  Three adult children of a murdered emperor -- a politician, monk, and soldier -- struggle to reveal the conspiracy without dying themselves.



TQ:  Tell us something about The Emperor's Blades that is not in the book description.

Brian:  Magic users are known as leaches, and they’re about as popular in Annur (the empire at the heart of the novel) as witches were in 17th century Salem. When discovered, they are almost always executed as abominations and perversions of the natural order.



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Emperor's Blades? Why did you choose to write Epic Fantasy? Do you want to write in any other genres?

Brian:  I read whole shelves of fantasy as a kid and never really left the genre. Even when I was all wrapped up with poetry and teaching, I’d have two or three fantasy novels waiting for me each vacation.

It’s really the scope of Epic Fantasy that appeals to me. Every story begins and ends with character, and you can have many in a large book, different women and men from different walks of life struggling with forces as old as history or as intimate as their own minds. Want a five thousand year old historian? Sure. Want a Goddess disguised as a cook? Done. There’s nothing you can’t do in Epic Fantasy. Of course, there’s nothing to guarantee that you’ll do it well



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Emperor's Blades?

Brian:  No specific research, but two choices proved indispensable. First, I moved to Asia to write the book because the cost of living is far cheaper over there (a few dollars a day). I didn’t anticipate, however, the way in which all those temples, stupas, wats, gardens, palaces, and fortresses would creep into the novel. The Broken Bay outside Annur, for instance, is modeled pretty closely on Vietnam’s Halong Bay.

The second important factor in the book’s creation was my teaching experience. I spent about a decade teaching ancient world history and comparative religion, and again, although this wasn’t specific research, it’s impossible to imagine The Emperor’s Blades existing at all without those years in the classroom. Historical (and quasi-historical) figures about whom I’d previously known nothing – Bodhidharma, Empress Wu Zetian, Mahavira, and dozens of others – all helped to color my own characters, and, of course, I couldn’t keep some of the great events of world history out of my mind when writing.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good guy, bad guy or ethically ambiguous character?

Brian:  Kaden was the most difficult. He’s a monk, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, and one of the three POV characters. The trouble with Kaden (and the monks in general) is that he’s worked half his life to eliminate his own feelings and desires. Unfortunately, feelings and desires tend to be the very qualities that allow us, as readers, to invest in a character. Fortunately, Kaden has not completed his training, so though his feelings are more muted than those of his siblings, though his emotional palette is more subtle, there’s still a lot there to work with.

The easiest character was probably the Flea. He’s a veteran soldier in the elite fighting unit for which Valyn (Kaden’s brother) is training. Short, soft-spoken, unattractive, and utterly deadly, the Flea always seemed to write his own lines.

As for favorite characters, it’s hard to say. Maybe Pyrre. She’s a middle-aged merchant with a limp. Why would I like her? You’ll see.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from The Emperor's Blades.

Brian:  “The mind is a flame. Blow it out.”



TQ:  What's next?

Brian:  Well, the sequel (The Providence of Fire) is finished save for the last edits, and I’m under way with book three. People warned me that it would be tricky juggling promotion for book one, edits for book two, and writing for book three, and they weren’t wrong! I’m not complaining though – I’m just thrilled that The Emperor’s Blades is out there and that I’m getting the chance to pursue this goal I’ve had in the back of my mind for as long as I can remember, probably ever since I wrote Anty’s Avinchir.

Thanks so much to The Qwillery for doing this interview and to all of you for reading it. If you do pick up The Emperor’s Blades, let me know what you think!



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





The Emperor's Blade

The Emperor's Blades
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 1
Tor Books, January 14, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 480 pages

Interview with Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades - January 14, 2014
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.


Chapters 1 - 7 are presently available as a free download from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes.





About Brian

Interview with Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades - January 14, 2014
I live on a steep dirt road in mountains of southern Vermont, where I divide my time between fathering, writing, husbanding, splitting wood, skiing, and adventuring, not necessarily in that order. After teaching high school (literature, philosophy, history, religion) for a decade, I finally committed to writing epic fantasy. My first book, The Emperor’s Blades, is the start of a series (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne), forthcoming from Tor in early 2014. Tor.com has been good enough to release the first seven chapters as a teaser that can be found here: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/11/read-the-emperors-blades-by-brian-staveley. I’m on Twitter at @BrianStaveley, Facebook as bstaveley, and Google+ as Brian Staveley.





Website  ~  Twitter @BrianStaveley  ~  Facebook  ~  Google+


Review: Skullsworn by Brian StaveleyInterview with Brian StaveleyReview: The Last Mortal Bond by Brian StaveleyReview: The Providence of Fire by Brian StaveleyInterview with Brian Staveley, author of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne: The Providence of Fire and The Emperor's Blades - January 14, 2015Review:  The Emperor's Blades by Brian StavelyGuest Blog by Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades - February 10, 2014Interview with Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades - January 14, 2014

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