Book Review: The Emperor’s Blades

US Cover Art by Richard Anderson

This post marks a milestone – the first book review on Write Before Dawn. We’ll keep the format simple – A quick synopsis, reasons this book may might be for you, and reasons it may not. Taste is subjective, therefore I have no intention of assigning arbitrary stars or giving a recommendation at the end. Rather, I hope to give you enough to draw you own conclusions based on your preferences. I should also disclaim that I am in no way associated with the author or publisher. With that said, let’s dive in together –

The Basics:

Title: The Emperor’s Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #1)
Author: Brian Staveley
Genre: High fantasy, epic fantasy
Publisher: TOR, Jan. 2014

Summary: (Spoiler Free)

The Emperor’s Blades introduces the reader to a richly detailed empire at the height of a golden age. The region has its troubles and inequalities, but they provide a certain level of stability and prosperity, and their power seems secure. The emperor’s three children are scattered around the world in various centers of intense training – as a diplomat in a Machiavellian organization, an ascetic monk at the edge of the world, and a highly trained assassin. Tragedy befalls that empire, and soon thereafter interconnected danger and mystery come for each potential heir.

Why This Book Might Be For you:

If you love diving into a fictional universe and admiring the details, you will enjoy this book. The empire feels realistic, and is richly described. The author does an excellent job of keeping the stakes high and the action coming throughout. The separate mysteries which affect each of the emperor’s children unfold gradually, teasing the reader with just enough to keep you guessing. The big reveals are very much steeped in the lore of Mr. Staveley’s universe, and feel satisfyingly solvable once the reader has the whole picture. There are no ‘small actors’ in The Emperor’s Blades. Every side character is delightfully unique, seasoning the narrative with their distinct flavor.

Why This Book Might Not Be For You:

If you are put off by depictions of cruelty, this is not the tale for you. The training and challenges the three heirs overcome are, at times, borderline unsettling. This book may also be a difficult read for readers who find world-building distracting from the narrative. Much space demonstrates the rich tapestry of the empire of the unhewn throne. While some readers will eat that up, others may find it tedious.

Where Can You Find More?

You can read about the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne on Brian Staveley’s website or his Amazon author page, where you can also, of course, purchase the books. You can find a preview of the first few chapters on either Amazon or

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