The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley: ARC Review
|Book Name:||The Providence of Fire|
|Release Date:||January 2015|
The first book of the ‘Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne’ trilogy was one of the reasons I started reviewing books. It resonated with me in a such big way and I dug it so much I felt like I had to give something back and simply buying the book was not enough to show my appreciation for the awesome reading experience I had just had. This bad boy picks up straight where the first one left off and here is what we know for those that like a little refresher.
Kalen is technically the Emperor. He has learned the Vaniate allowing him, in theory; to travel through the same portals the Csestriim used and, by becoming void of emotion, defeat the leech Balendin who fed off the fear and rage of others. He has discovered the plot against his life and has survived the attack on him by his fathers most trusted guardsman.
Valyn has betrayed the Kettral by going AWOL and hunting down the renegade wing that was to be involved in the assassination of his brother. Yurl has been killed and together with Kalen, he is planning for the impending arrival of The Flea whilst trying to figure out their next move, who they can trust and where they can go.
When we left Adare she has manoeuvred to arrange the death of the priest of Intarra who she believed to be responsible for her fathers death. At the conclusion of Book 1 we find she has been manipulated and her father’s killer is revealed to be her closest ally and lover , not to mention brilliant military strategist, Il Tornja, leaving her in a state of shock and confusion. Well thankfully she gets her shit together very quickly and sets out to reform the army she just had dismantled in order to challenge the military might of the people threatening her family line and the capital city.
There is a barely a whisper of communication between Adare, Kaden or Valyn yet somehow their family links are clear and their hopes and dreams are as much ours as theirs, and I can only put this down to the Authors skill. Knowing Brian has a young son I’m wondering if he is using this book to chart his own feelings of insecurity about his kid’s future. There is a lot of worry and concern here and what it does is makes the reader themselves feel parental toward the three kids.
To this end, I particularly enjoyed learning more about their father Sanlitun, the now dead emperor, and the preparations he made for his children before his death. He tried and failed to foster a relationship between Adare and her younger brothers due to both her maturity and their immaturity and this has impacted on the woman she has become as she feels completely alone and isolated. Her path is greatly expanded here from the first book and she is now becoming the major player we all wanted her to be.
Kaden finds himself dealing with the fact that despite attending the Shin school and enduring harsh lessons every day and night he actually knows very little about politics and has next to no fighting ability. He possesses several skills that are highly developed, like this memory recall, drawing, physical fitness, and the ability to enter the Vaniate but he has not developed personal relationships with other people to gauge and measure their reactions and responses. He does not know the subtleties of social interaction and when his only real guide is Rampuri Tan, about whom we still know very little, it becomes even more of a challenge. I think some readers expected someone who had been stuck in a temple learning from Monks for a decade to come out knowing everything but guess what, like most of us, Kaden leaves school only to discover he knows far less than he thought.
Valyn is in the process of becoming a leader, learning to trust his men, make his own decisions, gaining the experience he needs so he knows when to risk it all on a chance that has to be taken. He has a very tough road as the Kettrel have already been manipulated into betraying the Emperor, and he and his wing are alone and damaged.
There is a bit more magic coming in the world of The Unhewn Chronicles in this one as the concept of the leech is explored much further, old and young goods are discussed and the Csestriim start to play a more prominent role. The threat of an invasion of a barbarian horde brings a whole new dimension to who is on what side and why they have acted in the way they have. The cast of characters is amazing and very distinct and the cement for this whole exciting trilogy as despite it having an epic storyline it would not be that interesting if you were not involved in the lives of the protagonists and the side characters. You will love NIra and Triste and for those that found the lack of female storyline an issue in Blades rest assured it is well covered and addressed here. I tell you though, man or women, no one is getting off easy in this world.
Stavely makes sure each sibling travels a very different path and has a distinct voice that has been cultured through the experiences we follow them on and this is part of what made reading this book so easy and enjoyable. The consistency of their actions and thoughts shows well written and truly fleshed out characters but in no way makes anticipating their actions a foregone conclusion. A number of times I found myself frustrated by their choices but the ‘blades’ themselves shared this frustration, and were justified in doing so, as they have very little information to go off and everything they do has to be in a ‘best guess’ sort of manner. This was very realistic, a bit Tolkien esq, and served to highlight the often impossibly convenient access to information that seems to pervade a lot of fantasy books. Even George R.R. Martin says that he keeps some characters alive as they are the only POV he has in that camp or that occasionally he’ll have a raven fly in just at the right time to get things moving with some information he had no other way to impart.
I like that Staveley does not fall into that seductive trap and it means some of this book has to be earned as they are no convenient little escapes or easy outs. There are times you just scream about the fact that the three have not gotten together and shared the knowledge they have but with no group emailing it is very hard to get an instant message out. I love it when a book triggers this sort of irrational and emotional response whereby shouting at a piece of paper can feel completely justified and normal. The crazy thing is…..nope I wont say. Read it yourself ?
The Emperors Blades established our world, characters, magic and religions and was a page-turner that sucks you in, punches you in the stomach and does not let go. The Providence of Fire is more of a considered read that I had to constantly put down because there were more problems, more twists and turns and darker moments for each character as they continued their development and I knew I wanted it to last longer than 24 hours. I managed to stretch it out over a week with great difficulty, even taking my life in my own hands by asking my wife for complete silence whilst I finished the last fifty pages. I can’t wait to see how this series ends as Book Two finishes on a knife-edge and where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. I also learned two new words, hale and susurrus, so thanks for educating me not just entertaining me.
It’s my absolute pleasure to offer up massive thanks to Brian Staveley, Leah and Tor for giving me the opportunity to get my hands on a copy of this book. I loved every second of it and I cant wait to pick up a signed Hardcover when it releases in January of 2015. As more and more people discover what a talent Staveley has for creating a full, immersive, magical and exciting world, with characters to match, his popularity will soar. Go and find a 1st edition of The Emperors Blades while you still can.