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Author Topic: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley  (Read 14131 times)

Offline Arry

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Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« on: January 16, 2014, 03:36:33 PM »
OK, I know most people won't have had a chance to read this one yet, it was just release this week. But I'll put this out there for when others do. This book has been incredibly hyped. Touted as a solid candidate for the Best of 2014. That is a huge bar to live up to, especially for a debut novelist. My reaction was that is was a good book, a fun read, but it falls well short of a standard I would expect for a "Best of 2014" novel. It may be in a list of Best Debuts, but I honestly wouldn't expect it to top the list. But .... I am just one person, one opinion. I'm really curious what others thought of it.

I definitely enjoyed Valyn's chapters the most, but I felt most of the secondary characters were defined by their emotions (kind of like smurfs, I mentioned this in my review, but held back on my smurf comparison). But it was there. I couldn't help it. There was the Rage-y one, the Calculating or Creepy one, the Arrogant one, etc. etc. I felt myself as thinking of them as warrior smurfs. But more entertaining. And a bit more violent. I wish there had been a bit more depth to some of these characters. Something other than their defining emotion.

Don't get me wrong, I did like this book, but the level of explanation and repetition was tedious at times. I think it also likely made the book more predictable. If the story had been tightened up, the excess explanations and repetition stripped away, my rating of the book would have been much higher. But, once again, this may fall to my preference for writing style, others may disagree with me. I know there are a number of highly successful books that I would have this same reaction to.

There are cool things in this book, I do plan on reading the next one in the series.

So, what did others think?
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Offline Overlord

Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2014, 11:43:37 AM »
OK, I know most people won't have had a chance to read this one yet, it was just release this week. But I'll put this out there for when others do. This book has been incredibly hyped. Touted as a solid candidate for the Best of 2014. That is a huge bar to live up to, especially for a debut novelist. My reaction was that is was a good book, a fun read, but it falls well short of a standard I would expect for a "Best of 2014" novel. It may be in a list of Best Debuts, but I honestly wouldn't expect it to top the list. But .... I am just one person, one opinion. I'm really curious what others thought of it.

I definitely enjoyed Valyn's chapters the most, but I felt most of the secondary characters were defined by their emotions (kind of like smurfs, I mentioned this in my review, but held back on my smurf comparison). But it was there. I couldn't help it. There was the Rage-y one, the Calculating or Creepy one, the Arrogant one, etc. etc. I felt myself as thinking of them as warrior smurfs. But more entertaining. And a bit more violent. I wish there had been a bit more depth to some of these characters. Something other than their defining emotion.

Don't get me wrong, I did like this book, but the level of explanation and repetition was tedious at times. I think it also likely made the book more predictable. If the story had been tightened up, the excess explanations and repetition stripped away, my rating of the book would have been much higher. But, once again, this may fall to my preference for writing style, others may disagree with me. I know there are a number of highly successful books that I would have this same reaction to.

There are cool things in this book, I do plan on reading the next one in the series.

So, what did others think?

I've now read it and where as I usually write my own review in addition to any others on the site, I don't think I really need to as I can't add much more to what you wrote in your review or what someone like Justin Langdon wrote in his. Essentially, it is a good book, but it doesn't bring much new to the table (in this volume at least). There are also a heck of a lot of words that build up and delay a reveal that could have been told in about half the amount of space.

I think as you say, Brian will be hurt by the claims that the book is the best debut of 2014… that sets him up to fail. I think it is on par with Evie Manieri's Blood's Pride, which actually feels very similar. Whereas the really, really good debut books never feel like debuts, there were times where the forced dialect, excess of description, repetition, stock characters, over emphasis of clues and so on revealed this to be Brian's first full-length novel.

Also: was I the only person who got sick of 'Kent-kissing'? Maybe because I listened to the audiobook, but that really started to grind on me after a while.
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Offline Overlord

Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2014, 11:46:40 AM »
Note: On goodreads,  Evie's books gets and average of 3.39/5, which I think would match my score for this book.
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Offline Arry

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Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2014, 03:59:44 PM »
Also: was I the only person who got sick of 'Kent-kissing'? Maybe because I listened to the audiobook, but that really started to grind on me after a while.

Definitely not alone! I was so kent-kissing sick of that kent-kissing made up swear. And I did not have the audiobook. I actually almost included that in my review, but decided against it just because I felt it was another negative (and a relatively minor one), I felt it would have pushed my review to be harsher than I wanted it to be. It's hard to walk that line of saying everything you don't like about a book but still get across that it is not a bad book. It can be a fun read and still have a number of faults.
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Offline Overlord

Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2014, 06:22:46 AM »
Also: was I the only person who got sick of 'Kent-kissing'? Maybe because I listened to the audiobook, but that really started to grind on me after a while.

Definitely not alone! I was so kent-kissing sick of that kent-kissing made up swear. And I did not have the audiobook. I actually almost included that in my review, but decided against it just because I felt it was another negative (and a relatively minor one), I felt it would have pushed my review to be harsher than I wanted it to be. It's hard to walk that line of saying everything you don't like about a book but still get across that it is not a bad book. It can be a fun read and still have a number of faults.

I agree, I reviewed a book this week (probably be up on the site early next week) and whereas I did actually like the book, I seemed to have a huge amount of negatives when I stopped and listed them all - so many that 60% of my review was a complaint and that didn't quite represent my feelings of the book, so I had to go through and edit some down and extend the bits I did like.

It is like anything, when we review things we focus on the bad, because it is what brings about the greatest and most memorable response. Also, I think if you complain about something you need to justify it more than if you like something - so the word count on good vs bad is often skewed >.<
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Offline GauravZ

Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2014, 03:20:28 AM »
I finished reading the book recently and I loved it!
It was very good for a debut novel.
Kaden was my favorite character followed by Valyn.
Adare wasn't explored much and though she is the eldest among the siblings she acts rashly and impulsively.
I would like to see more of Adare and how her character develops and more of brother-brother and brother-sister dynamics.
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Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2014, 04:36:29 AM »
Finished it. The criticism over Adare is apt. She was an embarrassment to POVs.

Overall, I didn't think it was amazing. Enjoyable, yes, but riddled with a good bit of problems.
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AJZaethe

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Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2014, 11:20:13 PM »
I figured this book would fall about this range. It was over hyped and all that other jazz, kind of like the Left Hand of God, and you all know where that lead.

When I saw how much it was getting hyped, and especially a debut novel, I wasn't expecting much out of it. And when I got a chance to read a sample of it, I immediately recognized a mediocre novel. But what I wasn't expecting was a lot people to recognize it. For instance, not many recognize the subpar skill of Joe Abercrombie and his debut novel, The Blade Itself. Personally, I am surprised that novel made it past the rejection pile, let alone an editor. But then again, this isn't about Joe Abercrombie.

What really got my eye twitching about Staveley's work was literally the first two sentences of his prologue.

"Rot. It was the rot, Tan'is reflected as he stared down into his daughter's eyes, that had taken his child."

This start is clunky and awkward and immediately warned me that this author has a round about way of saying something that he needs to say or giving us information we don't necessarily need at the moment or need to know in general. The next paragraph confirmed my thoughts when our narrator gives us this line:

"Tan'is ignored it all, focusing instead on the face of this daughter of his who knelt, clutching his knees."

This sentence is very convoluted and giving us unnecessary information and repeating information as well. For starters, readers can understand that when people are in an unpleasant environment for an extended period of time, that they must ignore it and endure it. But let us put that aside for a second. The father is currently staring at his daughter. As far as I am concerned, the narrator has already told us that he is focused on his daughter and is ignoring the pleasantries of urine. So why is he telling us again? The next thing our narrator/author does is to give us a round about way of explaining the relationship with the person he is staring at, "...the face of this daughter of his..." The narrator could easily have said "...the face of his daughter..." That, however, is not the end of the violation of that segment, it further violates by repeating the fact that he is staring and that he is specifically staring at his daughter's face. Why not name her? Why not reword this sentence so that it flows better, so that it is able to give us new characterization about his relationship with his daughter?

It would be by the end of this first page that my understanding of this novel's debut would belong to a beginning writer that is being overhyped, for the gods only know why. Is he awful? Maybe to some. I would say he is decent at most, because we do get a feel for conflict and at least some characterization out of this father and daughter and a peak at their relationship during these horrific events.

I did not read further than the first page, so if the work does get better, be it so, but I do not feel that I should have to read further to find out if the author is a good writer. A work should be consistent and good throughout. And that is all I have to say about this novel.

Offline TravisGGAnderson

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Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2014, 04:39:04 AM »
As Marc said, I feel Arry hit pretty much every note that I could have about The Emperor's Blades. I was very engrossed with Valyn's chapters, intrigued by Kaden's chapters, and found myself putting the book down at Adare's chapters which I didn't like doing as she was the only female protagonist. Unfortunately, she was woefully under developed and, even though she may have still been dealing with her father's death, was a little irritating personality wise.

I think Brian built a cool world and filled it with cool characters, though they may be defined by their particular emotion(s) as opposed to being fully formed characters like Arry pointed out. I thought a lot of it was quite strong and I look forward to the second book, but I definitely won't argue it has its flaws.
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Offline Phil the Drill

Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2014, 04:51:02 AM »
I'm reading this right now and really enjoy what I've read so far. The world feels different to me in a lot of ways, so I'm looking forward to see what comes of the series. I'm so far behind on my reading though that it may be a while before I get back to it (reading stuff for book clubs does that to me).
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Offline Overlord

Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2014, 08:46:37 AM »
Read this in a recent interview on A Daily Dose of R&R:

“[In Book 2] Adare is absolutely central, plot-wise, and I’m almost certain she has the most words and chapters devoted to her. I wanted the story to begin mostly on the periphery of the Empire to move toward the center. As it does, Adare’s role and decisions become more and more critical.”
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Offline Steerpike

Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2014, 08:17:41 PM »
I haven't read this one as yet, but I'm not persuaded by the analysis of the opening few sentences, above. There seems to be a misconception among some that all writing has to have the same generic, straightforward form, and that there is no room for authors to move outside of this to less direct ways of writing. Not much room for individual style, in other words. If all someone wants to read is lean, direct, generic writing, that's fine. You can find a lot of such work, particularly if you look at game tie-ins, which are often generic in stlye (by design, in my view). But it is good that not everyone wants to read only that kind of writing, and that not every writer writes that way.

Offline Idlewilder

Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2014, 08:40:12 PM »
I haven't read this book (yet) but I have to say it amazes me people can magically judge the quality of any novel on its opening page.

Make Another World.

Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2014, 09:30:56 PM »
I haven't read this one as yet, but I'm not persuaded by the analysis of the opening few sentences, above. There seems to be a misconception among some that all writing has to have the same generic, straightforward form, and that there is no room for authors to move outside of this to less direct ways of writing. Not much room for individual style, in other words. If all someone wants to read is lean, direct, generic writing, that's fine. You can find a lot of such work, particularly if you look at game tie-ins, which are often generic in stlye (by design, in my view). But it is good that not everyone wants to read only that kind of writing, and that not every writer writes that way.

Remember that there is a difference between generic writing and clean, sharp writing. The sentences AJZaethe pointed out are clunky. The biggest problem for me with Staveley's writing was that it was too generic. The only time it really popped was when Valyn was having some philosophical moment, or Kaden was describing the mountains.

To say a book is entirely bad from the first page is a tad crazy, but I understand where AJZ was coming from. Consistency is grand. It's a criticism, especially when taking the chance with a debut and epic series. Luckily, Staveley does improve his writing style (for my tastes, anyway) near the end.

But if you really want to analyze the prologue, I hate it because it's not relevant for the entire book until one passing conversation near the end. It's an overarching prologue for the series, and I'm not too fond of those.
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Offline Steerpike

Re: Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2014, 09:41:32 PM »
Remember that there is a difference between generic writing and clean, sharp writing.

This largely comes down to subjective preference. When people talk about clean, sharp writing, they're often referring to lean prose. There is no reason everyone should write lean prose, or that every reader should want to read it. And in fact they do not. There is a tendency to conflate personal preference with some objective measure of quality. This is particularly prevalent among aspiring writers because, in my opinion, it is comforting to cling to some objective notion of how one should write and one would be successful. So people try to frame their preferences in that manner. Of course, a simple tour of the shelves in any bookstore will demonstrate that this idea is empirically false.