Book Review: The Providence of Fire

I love the watercolor cover art for this series.

Behold, the long-prophesied day has arrived. 

The Emperor’s Blades, the first Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, was the first book I reviewed on this blog nearly 2 years ago. 120+ posts later, I’ve read the second one. 

One of the problems with reading is it’s a never-ending feedback loop. You find an author you like, and you want to read more. Friends and internet strangers recommend similar titles. You stumble across unexpectedly intriguing finds in bookstores. As they say on some corners of the internet, truly, the Queue Do Not Yield

And so, it says nothing about the quality of this excellent book that I took so long to continue the series. 

The Basics: 

Title: The Providence of Fire (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne book 2)
Author: Brian Staveley
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Action, Mystery
Published: Tor, 2015

Spoiler-Free Summary: 

The action picks up exactly where it left off in the previous book, following the harrowing journeys of the three children of the assassinated emperor Sanlitun hui’Malkeenean, ruler of Annur. 

Adare, the eldest and only daughter, flees the palace after learning the shocking identity of her father’s murderer. She gambles her kingdom and her life in the hope that a common enemy will turn her former rivals into allies: the radical priestly militia, the Sons of Flame. She meets mysterious, eccentric travelers on the way with dark secrets which will either spell her salvation, or her doom.

Kaden, the middle child, but heir by virtue of being the eldest son, seeks answers about the mystical ancient history of his kingdom and heritage among dangerous radicals, whose shocking yet inevitable betrayal leads to a continent-spanning manhunt culminating in deadly courtly intrigue. The naïve ascetic from the isolated monastery is out of his depth. Realizing he is outnumbered, outsmarted, and outgunned, Kaden must, in his own words, “break the board” to win the game. 

How I imagine Kaden halfway through this book…

Valyn, the youngest son, escorts his brother Kaden to the brink of his meeting with the Magical Radicals before falling prey to an ambush from his own order of assassins. He and his squad flee across the mountains, broken and battered, only to fall captive to a hoard of pain-worshiping barbarians who pose an existential threat to the (mostly good) Annurian Empire. He must escape at any cost – he does his siblings, his companions, and his kingdom no good in chains. 

Each sibling goes on a journey which brings all their previously held beliefs into question. Nobody and nothing is who or what they seem to be. In the end, each heir faces a choice; a sacrifice which threatens their most tightly-held beliefs. 

Why This Book Is For You

Content warning: This book gets dark and violent. It contains graphic descriptions of death, including torture. Use your best judgment. 

Providence is in every way a level-up from Blades. The prose is more beautiful. The stakes are higher as the challenges become more personal. The grit is grittier. It’s everything you want from a second installment. 

The action and the intrigue drive the narrative. Hardly a chapter goes by without a battle, a chase, or a tense verbal duel. Although long at over 600 pages of deep worldbuilding, the constant tension gives this brick a thriller’s pacing, especially in the back half. 

Come for the cool stuff: giant hawks; not one, not two, but three death-cults; ruthless villains; and old-school inscrutable magic. Stay for the deeply personal character arcs and the luxurious prose. 

Where Can You Find More? 

Mr. Staveley honestly has a pretty slick author web site, worth checking out if you enjoy these titles. You know where books are sold. 🙂

Happy Reading.

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