My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Disjointed: This is what I felt when I read the 3-pronged narrative (From the perspectives of the three children of the murdered Emperor Sanlitun: Kaden, Adare, and Valyn). The Annurian Emperor sent his heir-apparent, Kaden to some mysterious monks at the edge of the world to learn God-knows-what which may or may not help him when his time to rule comes. The other son, Valyn, in contrast, has been sent off to become one of the select few warriors who are undoubtedly the most skilled in ways to kill in the entire empire, even more than the badass Royal Guards, the Aedolians. By virtue of her nature, Sanlitun’s only daughter Adare stays behind with her father and her role, at first glance is not as pronounced as her brothers’.
The first segment with the Monk-in-waiting Kaden has a slow Zen pace which I got comfortable with once I got into it. You know how it goes…Fetch water…Peel potatoes…Zen wisdom Kaden can’t make head or tail of. We get the first whiff of the supernatural. The Malkeenian royalty spot some bizarre blazing eyes, the mark of a ruler, supposedly inherited from a goddess.
Valyn’s narrative was by far the most interesting. I felt drawn into the world of the most fiercesome warriors of this universe and their Manjari martial arts. (Please don’t ask me what that is) Valyn and his buddy Ha Lin have undergone some sick training drills from when they were 8 and are nearing the end of their training. The plot thickens when assassins are sent to kill both Kaden and Valyn following the murder of their father Sanlitun.
My beef with the Emperor’s Blades grows in part due to the execution of the the different story arcs. Valyn’s plot is fast-paced and snappy that it instantly draws you in. Kaden’s plot is unrushed and Zen. I actually found myself enjoying it just as much. But when it came to Adare’s, I got increasingly frustrated with the pace, the narrative style, et al. It was annoying. Brian Staveley often built up a climax in one arc, only for a new chapter to commence at a slow, leisurely pace. All in all, it was offputting working your way back to the previous high. The different arcs don’t even try to progress in concert. How about that!
I am hoping the second book in the series will work on this.