cover image The Empire’s Ruin

The Empire’s Ruin

Brian Staveley. Tor, $29.99 (752p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8990-9

Three intertwined tales reveal the cracks of a dying empire in this grim, disappointing epic fantasy, which returns to the world of Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series to launch the Ashes of the Unhewn Throne series. Gwenna Sharpe, a disgraced former commander of the empire’s elite warriors, is sent on a mission to a treacherous continent to retrieve the eggs of a rare species of gargantuan birds used as military transports. Meanwhile, Ruc Lakatur Lan Lac and Bien Qui Nai, priests of an unpopular religion, are forced into arena combat as sacrifices to gods they don’t believe in. And monk-turned-thief Akiil plans to con Emperor Adare herself with the promise that he can teach her the secrets of powerful portals called kenta. Despite complex politics and conflicting cultures, the characters are simplistic and unmotivated, and their relationships to one another feel uninspired. Few surprises and little suspense along the way does nothing to make it easier to root for the protagonists. Fans of Staveley’s other works will enjoy revisiting the world and appreciate the appearance of familiar characters, but this ambitious trio of adventures falls flat and lacks heart. [em]Agent: Hannah Bowman, Liza Dawson Assoc. (July) [/em]