The Emperor’s Blades

Emperor's Blades

“A fantastic and compelling fantasy world […] an excellent author […] a compelling narrative. The next entry in the series, The Providence of Fire, is due out in 2015, and I already can’t wait to see what happens.”   — io9

The Emperor’s Blades is the first book in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne.

Named the Best Fantasy Debut of 2014 on Reddit Fantasy, it was also a semi-finalist in the Goodreads Choice Awards, and has appeared on numerous “Best-Of” lists, including Locus Magazine’s 2014 Recommended Reading List.

See what people are saying on Goodreads, then check out the first seven chapters FREE, online, or as an ebook. Then, if you like that: Order your copy now!

Praise for The Emperor’s Blades

UK, Australia, and New Zealand Cover

UK, Australia, and New Zealand Cover

“In this epic fantasy debut, Staveley has created a complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets. Readers of Sara Douglass’s Wayfarer novels and George R. R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series should enjoy this opener. —Library Journal, Debut of the Month, Starred Review

“[A] Quick-paced, multi-threaded fantasy […] Staveley puts his protagonists to the test and is wise enough to allow them shortcomings even as they develop extraordinary abilities.” — Publishers Weekly

“Staveley creates a world of treachery and deceit that will hold your attention to the last page. This intense novel is impossible to put down […] and Staveley’s perfectly timed ending will leave the reader begging for the next book.” — RT Book Reviews

“This book kept me on the edge of my seat. This book gave me actual adrenaline rushes. This book was unputdownable. This book blew my fucking mind. Favorite fantasy book of the year… maybe even ever.” Litchick’s Hit List

“Familiar ingredients come to life in the hands of a promising new master chef […] With assured skill, Staveley takes this initial stage of his tale to a climax where the amount of double-dealing and quick change dazzles, even as it prompts absolute paranoia.” — Locus

“The suspense is relentless, and the moral compromises the protagonists confront, often accompanied by violence, are wrenching.” Shelf Awareness

“Come for the intrigue, assassination, death priests, black-ops bird riders, and giant poisonous hive-lizards. Stay for Staveley’s characters, his language, and his way-cool fantasy Zen.”   —Max Gladstone, author of Three Parts Dead

“Brian Staveley has gifted readers with a vivid and visceral universe, peopled with likeable but very human characters. From the heat of the sun and the sweat on the skin . . . to the tense, knife-in-the-back feeling of the complicated and fascinating intrigue, all is real, solid, and compelling.”   —Christie Golden, New York Times bestselling author of Arthas: Rise of the Lich King and Fate of the Jedi: Omen

“Brian Staveley introduces himself to the field of epic fantasy as a storyteller to watch. The Emperor’s Blades is an exciting first salvo involving Machiavellian politics on multiple levels, an intriguing world of magic, and three protagonists whose personal journeys will keep the reader impatiently waiting for the next book!”            —Richard A. Knaak, New York Times bestselling author of The Legend of Huma

“A vividly imagined story of conspiracy and empire.”   —Col Buchanan, author of Farlandar

“A complex and fast-moving fantasy set in a world where treachery and intrigue are everywhere, accomplished through ferocious brutality, subtle intrigues, and everything in between.”  —L. E. Modesitt Jr., New York Times bestselling author of The Imager Portfolio and the Recluce Saga

“Staveley brings together a richly imagined world and vibrant characters, and serves them up with monks and monsters, tension and treachery—an exhilarating adventure.” —Elspeth Cooper, author of Songs of the Earth

“Takes a story of family, loss, conspiracy and revenge and gives it new legs. It’s epic fantasy with a sharp, jagged edge to it, a modern sensibility, prose as tight as the leather wrapped about a sword’s hilt, and characters that you can relate to and give a damn about. I look forward to the next installment of Staveley’s chronicle.”  —R. S. Belcher, author of The Six-Gun Tarot



The prologue opens on a scene of slaughter. The immortal Csestriim general Tan’is is overseeing the massacre of humans. Humans, we learn, are the children of the Csestriim, but for reasons unknown, they are born different from their parents. Unlike the Csestriim, who are immortal and emotionless, these human children have a life span of less than a hundred years, and are the playthings of their own passions. This difference leads to a great war between the two races, one that nearly ends in the complete destruction of the humans before the humans are able to turn the tide and effect their own genocide of the Csestriim.

The first chapter takes place many thousands of years after the prologue. Kaden, the youngest son of the Annurian emperor Sanlitun hui’Malkeenian and his heir, has spent most of his life in the remote monastery of Ashk’lan, studying the ancient discipline of the Shin monks. Life is largely a matter of running, working, and meditation until the day he discovers a brutally slaughtered goat deep in the mountains. As the monks try to find the creature responsible for the killing, responsibility for Kaden’s instruction is transferred to a new monk, the scarred and inscrutable Rampuri Tan. Tan goes at Kaden’s training with an unprecedented intensity, determined to teach him the ancient art of the vaniate, the empty trace toward which all the Shin aspire.

Meanwhile, on the secret military base of the Qirin Islands, Kaden’s older brother Valyn is training to become Kettral, the empire’s most elite military order. During an early training mission, however, he learns about the death of his father from a dying Aedolian guardsman on an abandoned ship. From that point forward, Valyn himself seems to be in danger, especially when a tavern in which he’s been drinking mysteriously collapses into the bay. With the help of his friend and fellow trainee, Ha Lin, Valyn tries to find the traitor responsible for the attacks on his life.

Back in Annur, the eldest Malkeenain sibling, Adare, is struggling with the aftermath of her father’s death. Elevated to a post as Minister of Finance, she is forced to face down the skepticism of her fellow ministers, to find a working relationship with the new regent, the cocky general Ran il Tornja, and, most crucially, to face down a challenge from Uinian IV, the Chief Priest of Intarra, the man she believes responsible for her father’s murder.

In his quest to ferret out the treachery on the Islands, Valyn discovers, over on the island of Hook, a mutilated corpse hung in an attic. He determines, from the degree of decomposition, that the woman was murdered the same day that the tavern collapsed around him. Before he can investigate further, Ha Lin receives a secret note from a Kettral leach (magic user) in training named Balendin. Despite her misgivings, she agrees to meet privately with Balendin. While she is doing so, Valyn is almost killed during a training exercise when his fellow cadet, the brilliant sniper Annick Fencha, fires on him with sharp arrowheads rather than the blunted training arrows. Recovering from the attack in the infirmary, Valyn is visited by Ha Lin. She was badly beaten by Balendin and another cadet, the smug and talented Sami Yurl, while Valyn was involved in the sniper exercise. Annick also visits Valyn in the infirmary, where she insists that the arrows she shot were, in fact, blunted. There’s not much time to process this information, however, because Hull’s Trial, the grueling exercise marking the transition from cadet to full Kettral, is upon Valyn and his fellows.

As Kaden struggles to master the Shin discipline—including such skills as the saama’an, the Carved Mind, beshra’an, The Thrown Mind; and kinla’an, The Flesh Mind—the killings around the monastery increase. Whatever predator haunts the mountains has moved from from goats to human prey. Then, to everyone’s surprise, a pair of merchants arrive at the monastery. Kaden is convinced, by some discrepancies in their story and behavior, that they are not what they claim, and more, that they have news of his father (of whose death, at this point in the story, Kaden is still unaware.) With the help of his friend and fellow acolyte, Akiil, Kaden uncovers a hidden cache of weapons belonging to the merchants. Before he can confront them, however, he is subdued by Rampuri Tan and brought before the abbot of the monastery, Scial Nin.

Nin explains to Kaden the reason he has been sent to Ashk’lan: the Annurian empire relies on a series of magical gates, kenta, built by the Csestriim thousands of years earlier as a way to fight against the humans. The gates allowed the Csestriim to pass from one place to another instantly. Just as crucially, they could be used only by Csestriim. This is because the kenta allow a person to pass through nothingness, and nothingness is the province of the ancient and inscrutable Blank God. The god allowed the Csestriim to pass through his domain because they carry an emptiness, a lack of what we might consider human ego, inside of them. Humans, however, are too filled with their own emotions, packed with hopes, fears, and all the rest, and so, when they try to pass the kenta, the gates obliterate them.

The Csestriim, however, made a mistake. At a certain point in the war they began to take human prisoners to try to better understand the intellectual and physical rot that afflicted their descendants. They kept these humans in a prison known at the Dead Heart, where they subjected them to all manner of horrific experimentation. As a result, some of the prisoners experienced a psychotic break, a mental schism so violent that it allowed them to set aside their own emotions, and therefore, to pass through the kenta. The prisoners overthrew their captors, and became an order of Csestriim hunters—the only humans capable of using the gates—known as the Ishien.

After humanity won the Csestriim Wars, need for the Ishien began to fade, and the order turned from violent, martial pursuits, to meditation and contemplation. Eventually there was a split between those holding to the old mission—the Ishien—and those who began to pursue emptiness for its own sake—the Shin. The Ishien, realizing they lacked the power to patrol all the gates, passed some of this responsibility to the fledgling Annurian Empire, agreeing to train each emperor to use the gates in return for a promise from those emperors that the gates would be protected and guarded against any remaining Csestriim.

It is revealed, in this scene with Scial Nin, Kaden, and Rampuri Tan, that Tan himself was a member of the Ishien before joining the Shin. More importantly, Tan believes the Csestriim have returned, in large part because a track of the creature killing the monastery’s men and goats has been found, a track made only by the long extinct ak’hanath, unnatural spider-like hunters created by the Csestriim during the human wars.

In Annur, Adare drags Uinian IV to trial, only to discover, to her horror, that he demands an ancient Annurian ritual: trial by flame. When he places his hand into a burning fire, it emerges unscathed, proving his innocence. Or so it seems. Adare consults with il Tornja, with whom she has a growing romantic connection, and concludes that Uinain is not, in fact, blessed by the goddess, but a magical leach, using his powers to feign divine blessing.

On the Islands, Valyn finally faces Hull’s Trial, a grueling week of physical exhaustion followed by a descent into the endless labyrinthine caves of Hull’s Hole. Each cadet is bitten by the monstrous slarn before entering, then must find and eat from a slarn egg, to counteract the poison of the bite. Valyn almost dies in the cave, but finds, at the last moment, the huge black egg of the slarn king—an egg no cadet has ever found before—and drinks from it. On his way back to the surface, he finds Ha Lin’s body.

After the Trial, the newly graduated cadets are formed into Wings. Valyn’s Wing seems unpromising—Gwenna Sharpe, his demolitions expert, is short-tempered and impulsive; Annick Fencha, the sniper, is utterly emotionless and, for all Valyn knows, a part of the plot against him; Talal, the leach, is competent but magically weak: Laith, the flier, is too reckless to work well with the team. They botch their early training exercises badly, but then, as they begin to work together, find some success. Even more importantly, they compare stories and come to the terrifying realization that the cadets responsible for the attacks on Valyn’s life, and for Ha Lin’s murder, are Sami Yurl and Balendin. Balendin’s well appears to be emotion—a very powerful source of power, one that explains his need to taunt and torture everyone around him. Just as Valyn and his Wing are going to confront Balendin, they discover that the leach has already left with Sami Yurl and the rest of his Wing, sent north on an undisclosed mission. This frightens Valyn: Kaden is in the north. Daveen Shaleel, a high-ranking Kettral commander, grounds Valyn’s Wing pending an investigation, but Valyn and his fellow soldiers go AWOL, stealing a bird and weapons in order to chase after Yurl and Balendin.

In Annur, Adare concocts a plan to reveal Uinian’s deceit. She goes to the Temple of Light, where Uinian regularly performs a ritual in which he stands in a beam of focused light. The miracle comes from the fact that he doesn’t burn, despite the concentrated heat, a feat that his adherents take as proof of his divine favor. At the temple, Adare has one of il Tornja’s soldiers paralyze the priest with a blow dart, then render him unconscious with another. Unconscious, Uinian is unable to use his magic, and burns alive, then is torn to pieces by his furious congregation.

Back at the monastery, an embassy arrives from the capital led by Tarik Adiv, a high-ranking Annurian minister, and Micijah Ut, the commander of the emperor’s Aedolian guard. They inform Kaden of his father’s death, hail him as the new Emperor, and present him with many gifts, including young concubine named Triste. That night, however, the treacherous soldiers spring their trap, slaughtering the monks and trying to kill Kaden as well. He is saved only by Pyrre, the “merchant” from earlier, who turns out to be a Skullsworn assassin, a priestess of the goddess of death hired to protect Kaden. Kaden, Triste, Tan, and Pyrre flee into the mountains.

Valyn’s Wing catches up with Yurl and Balendin in the mountains, but is captured by the treachery of Ut and Adiv (who are now working with Yurl and Balendin). Kaden’s group, however, sees the possibility of victory if they can reunite with Valyn, his Wing, and his bird. Rampuri Tan fights off a pack of ak’hanath, clearing a path for Kaden, who has finally managed to enter the vaniate, to return to the Annurian camp and free his brother. In that camp, Balendin makes a near-fatal miscalculation, believing he can rely on Kaden’s emotion to fuel his power, when Kaden, in the vaniate, has no emotion. Kaden shoots Balendin with a crossbow, and the leach falls into the darkness. Valyn, freed, slaughters Sami Yurl and the rest of the treacherous Wing. Without the support of the treacherous Kettral, the Aedolians are easily dispatched as well.

Flush with her triumph over her father’s murderer, Adare settles into her new life, comfortable with both her role and her relationship with il Tornja. When she finally turns her attention to her inheritance, however, a single volume of history left her by her father, she finds a note from the late emperor, a message from beyond the grave proving that Uinian was, in fact, innocent of his murder, and laying the blame at the feet of the kenarang, the regent, Adare’s new lover, Ran il Tornja.



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105 thoughts on “The Emperor’s Blades

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  4. Good afternoon Brian,

    I have to say your 7 chapters were the biggest tease. You’ve managed to do in these few chapters what some are unable to do in an entire book. You breathed life in your characters from the first page. These are three distinct voices, fully formed, and dealing with the challenges you set before them. The plot is great as well. It’s not so grandiose that you put the reader off, but it’s engaging enough that you want to keep turning the page. Your writing is fresh and places the reader smack dab in the middle of this world! I will say I was a little disappointed that I did not get one of your ARC’s in the sweepstakes by Tor as I was going to make your book the first book I review for my blog but I guess I can wait till January 🙂

    Good luck on your endeavors as a writer! These 7 chapters have made me a fan of your work and I’m looking forward to this release!

    • Hi Anthony,

      I’m thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the opening chapters! As it turns out, Tor is running that sweepstakes until the 24th, so you’re not out of the running yet. Also, Goodreads is doing a giveaway with a few more copies.

      Either way, the book will be out soon! Thanks again for the kind words. Please let me know what you think when you’ve had a chance to read the whole thing!


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  8. Goldsboro books is sold out. I’ve emailed the other resource you mentioned, and ZI am awaiting a reply. Thank you for answering my query so promptly. I’m looking forward to reading your book.


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  10. So good I’ll post it twice! Seriously a great read so far, half way through and decided to slow down to savor the world’s favor.( or something) Great prose, word building and a very imaginative world. Great way to get lost.

  11. Hi, First of all great book. I am about 60% through the book and I am loving every single page of it. The characters are amazing, how well thought of is the world is amazing. Where did you get all these ideas? I am just a bit sad that i will have to wait a whole year before reading the next book, I dont know what i will do for the rest of the year. Anyway I wanted to congratulate you on an amazing book.

    • Thanks for getting in touch, Andrew! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the book. A lot of the ideas came from my years teaching ancient world history and world religion. I doubt anyone else would notice the lineage of most of the ideas; they’re transmuted, of course, in the process of writing and world-building. Often the original inspiration gets completely scrubbed away in the process of exploring the characters and plot. Still, the jumping-off place for many of the elements of Annur (and beyond) is our own world. Hope you like the rest of the book!

  12. I finished the book and loved it beyond belief. It was my favorite type of fantasy. Thank you so much for writing this masterpiece. Keep it up, can’t wait for the second book.

    • Thanks, Daniel! I’m curious what other authors you like — always looking for new books to add to the pile and I’ve been finding that my readers have some great suggestions!

    • Thanks for getting in touch! The second book takes some new twists and turns, introduces two or three more important characters, and shows a lot more of the world. Here’s hoping you enjoy it!

  13. Brian – just finished the book today. Fantastic! Loved the history, the story, the action and especially the characters. Congratulations on such an excellent story! As far as the prior comments on some other good books, you might enjoy Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Like yours, another fun weaving of ancient history and fantasy. Thanks for sharing your story – can’t wait for the next book!

    • Thanks! I devoured the Codex Alera series a few years back (or maybe more than a few years, come to think of it). Loved that entire system of magic, and all the implications it had for both plot and character. I still think about it from time to time when I’m working on my own books…

  14. Mr Brian, thank you for this -great- book. I’m an art student who has been devouring fantasy books while painting (34 audiobooks in a year and counting), and your book definitely stood out from the rest. Even though I’ve started getting more skeptic when it comes to really digging a fantasy book because of all the cheesy clichés I’ve encountered, you certainly captured me with the raw emotion and hardships your characters had to face. Personally, that’s exactly what I look for in fantasies: have a cool world/magic/monsters if you want, but most importantly, have compelling characters to move the story forward. And you certainly had all of these in your story!

    I won’t write much more since I must be the 9234th guy who’s repeating you the same things over and over again. As for the Unhewn Throne saga, I hope to see the world and lore slowly expand, like find out more about the leach magic system and its variables and limitations…And, of course, to see where these characters’ journey will take them. Rock on Mr Brian, I’ll be eagerly waiting for your next work!

    • Thanks for getting in touch, Justin! Why kind of art do you do? Do you have a website?

      I’m thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the book. I think you’ll be pleased with the direction of the next one — we get to see a lot more of the world (five or six new locations, depending on how you count), and there’s a new POV character in the mix, someone you’ve already met, but wasn’t a POV character in the first volume. I really can’t wait to get it out there, and I’ll be curious to hear what you think of it when the time comes!

  15. Brian, Thanks for a great read! While I am an avid reader, it is rare that I devour a book as quickly as I did The Emperor’s Blades! One huge issue I have with many Fantasy novels is that the protagonist is “given” powers. As a teacher, I appreciate how your characters work hard to achieve success. In the short time since I finished the book, I have recommended it over a dozen times. Eagerly awaiting the next installment! ~Denis

    • Thanks, Denis! What do you teach, and what grade level? I taught high school English and history for a little over a decade, and I’m certain that some of that experience has percolated into the book. One of the questions we (my colleagues and I) were grappling with all the time was how to balance teaching content with teaching skills, and, under the heading of skills, academic skills (e.g. research techniques) versus more nebulous life skills (resilience, etc). The irony seemed to me that these nebulous life skills were at the same time the most important and the hardest to teach. I think with Kaden, Valyn, and Adare, you find three people with some solid content knowledge (Adare) and some “academic skills” (Valyn), but very little in the way of any perspective that allows them to use their knowledge or abilities effectively. I’ve never thought of it in quite these terms until I started writing this post, but it occurs to me that I saw that sort of thing all the time in the high-pressure high school where I taught: young adults with amazing abilities and little or no sense of what to do with them.

      Anyway, sorry for the rambling response. Just got a little nostalgic for the classroom!

      • Hi Brian – came by your site to say: Yummmm! Eager for next book. And, tagging onto this topic…Kaden & Valyn have powerful “lessons” but their teachers are focused on pushing… not much “empty space.” The process of reflection, internalizing, and then taking that learning into a new application is key to meaning-making. It’s interesting that the word “learning” can be used equally for drill & repeat as for synthesize & apply.

        • Hi Josh —

          Thanks for getting in touch! Interesting reflection on the educations methods of the Kettral and the Shin. I think Kaden does have more space for that empty reflection than Valyn. Much of his training is solitary and still. That stuff, though, doesn’t make for great fiction (“…then Kaden sat on a rock for ten days…”) Valyn’s training and Adare’s, however, are all about imparting information and skills. It occurs to me that the lack of time for reflection may help to explain why both of them are not so great at actually applying those skills when the time comes!


      • Brian, I am currently a special education teacher at a therapeutic day school for student with severe behavioral and emotional disabilities. I have also taught special education in general education high schools in Chicago, Denver and Boise. Plus in Denver, I was a general education Social Studies teacher. With the requirements of No Child Left Behind (and even more with Common Core), schools are in a bind… especially in regards to special education as the focus on life skills/critical thinking skills are pushed to the back burners. Vocational opportunities for students with disabilities are declining in the workforce, and it is exacerbated to the lack of true vocational training that schools aren’t able to offer anymore (not that it was stellar earlier). I carry my soapbox with me… it comes in handy. Again, thank you for a great story, and I look forward to the next installment. And… if you ever make it to Chicago… Wine/Beer and a Reading sound good! ~Denis

        • Always happy to chat with a fellow teacher! Sounds like interesting and challenging that work that you’re engaged in. My wife taught in public schools (while I’ve always been in the private world), and I remember well her frustration when it came to some of the conflicting requirements and mandates that seemed to govern every decision. I wonder if it’s any better in Chicago than it was in Denver?

  16. Just finished this last night, and I just wanted to tell you that I LOVED it, and cannot wait for the next one. I came across it in a Barnes and Noble email and decided to take a chance, and I’m so glad that I did, as you’re definitely on my favorites list now!

    • Thanks so much, Brandy! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it. I’ll be curious to hear what you think of The Providence of Fire… more new places, more movement (psychological and physical)…

  17. I just ripped through the audiobook form of TEB and absolutely loved it. A few questions if you’re willing to answer them… Your narrator, Simon Vance, is fantastic. I’ve listened to him before and he’s one of my favorites. How did you come to choose him? Did you try out others? Finally, in what year should we expect book 2? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Zach — So glad you liked it! Simon really is amazing. I wish I could claim credit for choosing him, but the fact of the matter is that, while I did have final approval over the reader, I don’t listen to audiobooks, so I had no idea about various narrators. Brilliance Audio (the audiobook producer) suggested Simon, my agent said we should jump on it, so I jumped. Only when I started doing a little research into his career and his endless list of prior performances (Dune! Girl with the Dragon Tattoo! Wolf Hall!) did I realize how lucky I was. And, of course, I’m thrilled with the final version.

      As for book two, The Providence of Fire, it’s pretty much done now, and will be out in January. Not sure if you found the page on this site, but Tor US has already released the cover — more Richard Anderson artwork. Again, I really lucked out!

      • Can I just say that it is so very cool that you reply to all of your fans. Additionally, you may not listen to audiobooks, but you write them, good sir. I’m a poor reader and have listened to hundreds of audiobooks over the years as reading really becomes a chore for me. It’s a burgeoning market, I think, and a bad narrator KILLS the experience for fans that are just as die-hard as your “readers”. Changing narrators mid series is just as awful. If you have a true pro like Vance do all of your audiobooks, you’ll never have a problem! I’ve recommended your book to many friends already and will continue to do so. I truly appreciate your response and your work. All the best to you.

        • I think you’re absolutely right about the audiobook market. SO many people have gotten in touch with me saying things like, “Thank god it’s an audiobook.” Even close friends, who said they’d never read a 500 page book but loved the audiobook. So I feel really, really lucky to have ended up with Simon as a narrator. And yes, he’s slated to do all three of them…

          • That is great news! I like traditional book-in-hand reading, but also enjoy audio books, especially in the car, on planes, and when exercising. Simon is fantastic and I am glad he is slated to perform all of the books. Nothing irks me more than when a new narrator pronounces the names of characters differently than the original narrator. A good (or bad) example of this is the Song of Ice and Fire narrator. The first few books were narrated by Roy Dotrice (who is on par with Vance). When the 4th book came out there was a new narrator who obviously didn’t bother to find out how the established speaker had pronounced important character names. One example of this was Littlefinger, Petyr Baelish. Roy pronounced this as Pah-Tyer while the new guy used the more common Peter. Inconsistencies like this in audio books are just the worst! Am I just crazy, or does everyone else feel this way?

          • I don’t listen to many audiobooks, but I’ve heard many people voice the same irritation. My father loved the audio version of some obscure British series, and when they change the narrator, he refused to listen to it any more…

  18. Brian,
    Thanks for a great book. Really enjoyed how you encompassed some of the Śūnyatā in your story telling. Great character and environmental development. Looking forward to the next book, hopefully it contains some competitive beer shooting/drinking.

    • Thanks, Russ! I definitely drew heavily on various Buddhist traditions in conceiving the Shin. There’s also a pretty deep current of philosophical Taoism running through some of their aphorisms and beliefs. I had great fun developing and populating Ashk’lan. Would love to return to it some day — maybe in a stand-alone novel or a series of short stories. Lots of possibilities…

  19. Hi Brian

    I’ve almost finished your awesome book! I love the way you’ve built your world but still maintained high quality characters. The best book I’ve read since The Name of the Wind.

    Many thanks


    • Thanks, Fezza! The Name of the Wind sets the bar pretty damned high. I’ll look forward to hearing what you think of the ending of The Emperor’s Blades…

  20. Hello Brian,
    I finally finished my copy of The Emperor’s Blades. It was absolutely fantastic! I’m already hooked for The Providence of Fire. I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here!

    • Thanks, Michael! I, too, am very excited to loose The Providence of Fire on the world. I think you’ll find some… unexpected twists. Looking forward to hearing what you think of it!

    • Thanks, Lex! Shouldn’t be too much of a wait not. The second book, The Providence of Fire, is through copyedits and has cover art. Just a few (ok — six) months to go…

  21. Brian,
    I just finished Book One of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne and have to say that I am thoroughly impressed and excited! I am currently following a number of epic fantasy series, including The Demon Cycle, Stormlight, Kingkiller Chronicles, and A Song of Ice and Fire, amongst others. While waiting for the next installments of these series I stumbled across your book. I honestly wasn’t expecting too much and just thought I’d take a shot at something new that I hadn’t heard much about. Luckily I was blown away! I think your work has the potential to be good as or better than any of the other series I have listed above. What a fantastic job you did by gradually building momentum and revealing the plot at just the right pace! I am eager for more and will be sure to share information about your new series with all of my bookish friends. If there is ever an opportunity to get a picture and a book signed I’ll be there!

    • Thanks, Matt! We have very similar taste in books, as it turns out. I’m following all of those series (although I haven’t started the Stormlight Archive yet — waiting for it to be a few books longer so that I can binge-read). I usually mention upcoming readings and whatnot on twitter or fb, rather than here on the site, although I should probably start updating this space, too. At any rate, I’m doing one or two a month these days, but will almost certainly ramp that up when The Providence of Fire is released. Where do you live?

  22. Oh, I think you’ll really enjoy the Stormlight Archive. Sanderson is really evolving into a master, with each work better than the last. I live near Scranton, PA (northeast Pennsylvania). This is a couple hours north of Philadelphia, so that would probably be my best shot. I will definitely look you up on Facebook so that I can follow your reading schedule. The Providence of Fire is right at the top of my list, can’t wait to find out what happens next!

  23. Dear Brian,
    I am almost finished with Blades…. I am trying to read slower to let this wonderful experience last longer… and yet I am racing to see what happens next. I have been enjoying Anthony Ryan, Mark Lawrence and Michael Manning recently, but I have to say you top them all. If you are ever down in Cape Town – you have loads of fans down here who would love to get a signed copy!

    • Thanks so much for your kind note, Marietha. I’m thrilled that you’re enjoying the book — the good news is that you don’t need to read TOO slowly. The Providence of Fire will be out in just a few months, and it’s longer than TEB, so should take you some time.

      I’d love to get down to Cape Town some day. It’s exciting to hear that there’s a group of folks down there who are reading and enjoying the book!

      On an entirely different note, do you mind if I use your name in a book at some point? I’d break up the first and last (there might be a character named, simply, Quixley), but I think that both have serious fantasy-novel potential…

      • Dear Brian,

        Jikes, of course you can use my name!! That would be fabulously exciting!

        Finished Blades last night – now I can give my poor family some attention, I’ve seriously neglected them of late.. Till the next one.

        I’ll be sure to leave a review asap.



  24. Brian – I have about 50 pages left to read in ‘Emperor’s Blades’, and I’m enjoying it so much I have to tell someone – so why not the author himself? I’ve read some very good fantasy this year (Abercrombie, Rothfuss), but so far what sets you apart in my mind is the sense of pace you’ve established in ‘Blades.’ The book has certainly made itself feel ‘epic’ to me, but at the same time each chapter pulls me along quickly and effortlessly. Somehow, I still don’t know if I like Kaden or Valyn more – it’s a toss up. And bravo on the Valyn chapter during Hull’s Trial – that had to have been one of the coolest things I’ve read. I’m waiting for some sort of awesome fan art to appear showing Valyn drinking the Slarn egg deep underground.

    Can’t wait for book #2. Well F_n done.

    • Thanks for getting in touch, Ted! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the book, and I hope you like the last 50 pages. Things get pretty ugly for the Malkeenians…

      We’re just about two months from the release of The Providence of Fire, so your timing is great. You can read a little bit more about it on this site, see the cover, etc. Drop a line when you’re finished TEB to let me know how the ending worked for you. Ending the first volume of a trilogy is a tricky balance, and I’m always curious to hear how it works for readers.

      • Loved the ending. I guess as the author you want to end Book 1 with some semblance of conclusion, while keeping some vital cliffhangers. I’ll be curious to read how you include new settings and locations in Book 2, because one of my favorite things in TEB was The Bone Mountains and the setting of Ashk’Lan.

        • The Providence of Fire has quite a few new settings: 7-8, depending on how you count. I really enjoyed having the chance to explore the world more fully, although I have soft spot in my heart for the Bones…

  25. Dear Mr. Staveley,
    Like most people with a brain I find house chores unbearably boring, as a stay-at-home mom I find myself spending a significant portion of my waking life doing them. To stay sane I listen to audiobooks. So when I tell you that while listening to your book I scrubbed my whole house top to bottom and then, not wanting to stop listening, I cleaned out all my kitchen cupboards and then moved on to the closets, that is high praise indeed. I am looking forward to book 2, and have already made a little list of exceedingly dull, mind-numbing tasks about the house to facilitate my binge-listening.
    Do keep writing!

    • Thanks for getting in touch, Bri. I’m so glad to hear that the book not only entertained but helped get the closets clean. If only it worked the same way on this end! Unfortunately, it’s the opposite: I can barely unload the dishwasher when I’m trying to hit a deadline (as I am now)… As far as The Providence of Fire goes, you’re in luck; it’s out in less than two months, and Simon Vance will be doing the narration again. I’ll look forward to hearing what you make of it!

  26. So I read through the seven chapter and now am debating do I spend the $8.89 that in all honesty I may not have, due to too many bills an student loans on your book or on food? So it becomes a gamble of buying your book, and maybe not eating for a meal or two. Having a limited income an less income than bills and necessities can be…difficult at times. I find myself in quite the dilemma. What do you think I should do? Thanks for writing such an interesting story by the way.

  27. Your book, The Emperor’s Blades Blew My Fucking Mind! I read it in one day, I couldn’t put down. The only time I did put down because I got so emotionally worked up I had to put it down! I looked at like it was some sort of creature I had to wrestle to get to the end, I was determined to get to the end! And What and End it was!
    An amazing Experience I can’t wait for the Second! It was just such an emotional experience.

    • Thanks, Steven! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it — always happy to create a literary monster wrestling match. Your timing is excellent — just one month until The Providence of Fire comes out, and you can read the first six chapters now over on Looking forward to hearing what you think of it!

  28. Hi there Brian – and thank you for taking us for such a wild ride. I was hooked from the start and loved the way in which you’ve weaved so many modern day concepts into a medieval fantasy world. All characters and the world in which they live are rich and multi-dimensional and make for a very enthralling experience. This is the first book I have EVER read where I’ve been tempted to contact the author just to say; wow! (and I’m only two-thirds of the way through it) The only thing I DON’T like about it is the fact that it has caused me to revisit everything I’ve written thus far (all 3 chapters of it) in my own sad little attempt at a fantasy novel! Ouch. In the first few chapters alone you helped me see where I’ve gone wrong in voice, narrative and so much more. Thanks again and I look forward to the rest of this Kent-kissing tale (as do quite a few of us here Down Under). Also – happy new year to you and yours.

    Cheers, Ben

    • Thanks for your kind note, Ben. I’m thrilled that you’re enjoying the book so much, and I’ll be curious to hear what you make of the ending. As for second-guessing your own work — DON’T DO IT! At least not at this point. The most important thing yo have to do at the three chapter mark is to keep writing. You might throw away all three of these chapters, but do it later, once you have the whole draft of the novel completed. There will be plenty of time then for second-guessing and revision, and you’ll have a much better idea of what belongs and what doesn’t. I have literally dozens of chapters from each of my books that will never see the light of day, either because they didn’t fit the plot, they were poorly written, they were inconsistent with the character, etc. There’s nothing wrong with throwing away chapters, but if you start doing it when you’ve only just began, it can be too demoralizing to keep on. Good luck with the project!
      All the Best,

  29. Pingback: Staveley, Brian: The Emperor’s Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne I) (2013) | humanitysdarkerside

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  31. It’s odd. I usually buy fantasy books as a sort of cascading “hey, this looks interesting and people seemed to like it” swarm. Then I delve through them in order of what looks interesting, starting along and either continuing with the same one until finished or until I find it unfulfilling and postpone it. The Emperor’s Blades was the last I finished, simply because the prologue, of a sociopathic, fake-utilitarian-but-actually-myopic race of drones disgusted me so much I couldn’t pick it back up until I was done with everything else (and it took some actual effort to overcome the mental inertia). The odd? Finding that the book itself had little to do with those people, was not actually a psychologically-dystopian experiment but a full-fledged book meant to both provoke and entertain, and was among my favorites of the batch.

    I realize frame stories and teasers are an opportunity for self-expression, but they’re also the reason many people pick up or don’t pick up a book. I humbly recommend you consider the Chuck Lorre-style “isn’t it interesting?” expositions for when you’ve already built up the reader’s emotional cachet. For me, the answer was “no. it isn’t”, and it almost made me miss a good book.

    • Hi Tom — Thanks for getting in touch and sharing your experience of the prologue. I always enjoy learning how different aspects of the story hit different readers. I’ll be curious to hear what you make of the prologue to the second book. It’s very different, content-wise, but I wonder what you’ll make of the tone. I’ve written the whole third book, but don’t yet have a prologue for it, so this is a topic that’s very much on my mind at the moment! All the Best, Brian

      • Brian,

        Just finished Providence of Fire. Phenomenal!
        The twists and turns of the plot had me laughing, anxious feeling vindicated and angry.
        Kaden learned the prologue lesson in earnest. Triste remains an eager enigma. And the ending has me baited foe the release of the third installment. Please hurry.
        I don’t think I can hold this feeling of contempt for Adare for a year!

        • Hi Sal — Thanks so much for taking the time to get in touch. I’m so glad that the book got you laughing at points. In my mind, that’s one of the big differences between Blades and Providence: Providence, while darker, has more humor. At least, that’s what I was going for! And maybe save a little forgiveness in your heart for Adare?

  32. Pingback: Review of Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson | Fantasy Book Collecting & Reviews

  33. Hi Brian,

    I don’t normally do this, but having finished Providence three weeks ago it’s still very much on my mind so I wanted to find a way to tell you just how much I loved the books, and to thank you for writing them! I have a long commute to and from work and I read copiously — I never DON’T have my Kindle to hand. I picked up the ebook version of Blades after mentioned it and absolutely fell into the world and the characters (you probably don’t get people telling you this often, but for some reason I just adore poor Talal in particular, he’s almost always in the background but he just shines for me somehow) I think that’s the only time I’ve ever wished for my commute to be longer, when I had to put the story away and head back to the real world at the end of it. I parceled the story out for as long as I could, but still found myself mourning the fact that I was coming to the end of it… then checked Amazon on a whim, and there was the second book in the series! Needless to say I bought it straight away, but the turnaround from being sad that a wonderful story was coming to an end to the sheer joy and excitement of finding that the sequel was already out meant that I was almost literally walking on air for an entire weekend until that Monday morning commute when I could start Providence! I’m a procrastinating (I can’t even say ‘aspiring’) writer myself, and once I got past the rush of glee my first thought on seeing the sequel sitting there on the Amazon page was that if anything I ever wrote could make one person as happy as the way I felt when I realised I had a whole other book before me, right there with no waiting… that would be all I’d ever want. I think that’s probably why I felt the need to get in touch: just to let you know how much you brightened my whole day.

    Anyway, now I’ve finished Providence… and the long wait begins! Remember how I said that I’m never without my Kindle on my commute? It’s been three weeks since I finished the second book, and while I have other unread things waiting for me, I actually haven’t felt the need to break into any of them just yet. It feels like my mindset is still firmly on that ending, still with Valyn (I KNEW it!), with Kaden (he’s turning into a clever little thing, isn’t he? Or perhaps he was all along) and with Adare (yikes, is all I can say…) and I’m not ready to visit another author’s world just yet… and I think I’m fine with that. I’ll stay with the siblings a little longer, and start counting down until the third book comes out. Thank you once again for writing and for sharing your world with us, and good luck in everything you do!

    • Thanks so much for the kind, thoughtful letter! I’m just thrilled that you’re enjoying the story. That that there are people like you out there that are connecting with these characters — rooting for them, screaming at them, whatever — is the greatest thing I could hope to hear. I used to have a long commute, during which I listened to books on tape, so I know that feeling well, and I’m glad to have brightened the mornings and evenings a little bit. As for Talal, I share your fondness for the guy — one of the nicer, more honest characters in the whole story.

      Thanks again for getting in touch — I’ve just finished a major rewrite of the third book — THE LAST MORTAL BOND — and notes like this keep me motived as I work through the final convolutions.

      All the Best,

  34. Hi Brian,

    At first i would like to apologize for my bad english.

    I saw the book in a store and was somehow attracted to it, but didnt bought it. A few days later i couldnt help myself and took it. I had a lot of expectations and hopes i wouldnt be dissapointed. Even though my expectations have been big I still was more than just simply pleased with this masterpiece of yours. I never read a book that fast as I did with this one. Then I had to wait a whole month until the second came out – hard time for me. But then finally it happened i read it even faster than book nr 1. Amazing!! Now i have to wait for the next one. Everywhere its said it will be a trilogy but i dont want to believe it. I would like to read more than just one more. I deeply hope it wont be just a trilogy. There is much that can happen in Annur.Nothing is clear and enemys are everywhere. (A god on earth has to be killed,another to awaken in Triste, slarn awakening of valyn,kadens reformation, adares reaction to kadens reformation,il tornja , the main war between human and Urghul, and much stuff i dont even know you prepared for the third book. But much more than this can happen later.for example a time-skip of a few years ~3,5 or even 10.the characters are still young so why not. Some epic leaches can be enemy while valyn got much experience as assassin and is the new flea with his dark slarn awakening fully under control. Adare who could turn in the meanwhile to be a leach too (got her power by intarra – the lightning that hit her brought up some side effect [my idea would by sunlight as her well. Powerful at day weak at night]) this transformation and moral inner conflict would be amazing. Together fighting this overpowered leach. And then a long forgotten csestriim appear who still want to eliminate humanity and found a complicate way how to revive the csesteiim race. This and much much more 🙂

    And of course it would be awesome going back in time and read the story of nira and oshi. I bet everyone would love to buy this novels too.

    And at the end i would like to critise somerhing in PoF. I can understand Valyn is making a bigger and unknown transformation and trough the whole time since he ate the egg he has this inner aggression and monster in himself and you keep showing it to the reader. Valyn trys to ignore it but it is getting worse. A lil bit more details about it could be more interesting because it would better explain his stupid reaction later. He was waiting whole 3 days in a tower for il tornja. At least he could either send one of the boys to make contact with gwenna since they are all assassins or make her come with hidden secret signals and speak to her. Letting him sit for a too long time in the tower you was a very cool character far too long. And at the end the long awaited showdown was …. NOTHING.backstabbed by his sister. There should be some more than this not very interesting overhasted end. The same goes for Laith. Letting him be killed is ok.but his death is stupid.he ran to defend the bridge,got shot by his own man by mistake and than killed by the enemy- end.that disappointwd me a lil bit.

    I am sorry for writing so much but i am still very hyped by your book. I hole i will get an answer

    Sincere greetings
    Andrej A.

    • Hi Andrej —

      Sorry for the long delay in responding. Things have been hectic here over the holidays, but I’m digging out from under all my emails now. I’m thrilled that you’re enjoying the story. As far as the future goes, this particular story is over at the end of the third book (The Last Mortal Bond), but I’m currently working on a stand-alone novel in the same world, and plan to continue writing about some of these characters (both the main characters and secondary ones) for some time to come. So never fear! More stories in the same world. As far as the end of Providence goes, my thinking is that by that point, Valyn is very, very broken. His decisions (like Adare’s and Kaden’s) are NOT very good, but by that point he’s sacrificed so much, that he’s obsessed with just seeing the thing through. I’ll be very curious to hear what you make of the conclusion!

      • Hello again,

        I am very glad you indeed answered. It is sad that it ends now but if i think through – an amazing trilogy of awesmeness is better than 10 books with huge ups and downs like a rollercoaster. And i can still read side-storys from other characters ans other angles – especially the story of nira and oshi.

        Yes, i understand they make bad decissions. Hey are going through hard times and cant chose between good and bad but only can hope to chose the lesser bad. Its good that his twisted mind was gradually shown more and more and we can see from the beginning till the end over and over his thoughts getting darker, more pessimistic, obsessed with rage, killing intent and hatred. This is very well done and i liked it from the logical side that explain most of his behaviour but in the end he become numb. This anger and hatred, his agression and killing intent werent shown. It just disappeared and was waiting far tooooo long and whats more it was waiting for nothing. He didnt even had his fight. He didnt almost try with all he got to kill il tornja. It would make more sense sending him on a rampage with his 2 team members and make a mass slaughter while definding the first wave of enemys. BUT there would be a problem – what with il tornja?he may not know of his presence. NO PROBLEM!! When they started appearing valyn could call to hide in that tower – they are ketrell so no problem. For example to make up laiths death he could oppose that order and stand alone killing a mass of them while dying too. That would be a great death for a fighter. And it would emotionally affect the reader. The real death of his in the book is lame. He simply jumped in the fight and died after a few minutes by friendly fire.

        I think Valyn disappeared for too long – from beeing freed from longfist till the end of the book. His transformation from inside seeking revenge and generating aggression, hatred and bloodlust simply … never showed up. Thats a pitty.
        Thats my opinion.

        Of course i love your books and i must say the way of writing you use i fantastic. I love reading it.

        Merry Christmas and a happy new Year to you and your family

  35. Pingback: Seven Days Talks To Brian Staveley | Geek Mountain State

  36. Pingback: Review of Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – thefantasybookcollector

  37. Reading(listening) to your series as an audiobook. Love Audible but the one thing you miss out on is the maps, appendices, and other illustrations that are included in the print versions. You have provide a copy of your map, thanks for that, but I would love to see a copy of the appendices posted.

  38. Pingback: The Last Mortal Bond (Book 3): A Spoiler-free Recommendation of an Entralling Fantasy Series | The GingerNut Lifestyle

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  40. Pingback: Review: THE LAST MORTAL BOND by Brian Staveley (Tor) | Civilian Reader

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