The climactic third and final novel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne.
The trilogy that began with The Emperor’s Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire.
The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.
But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all–Valyn, Adare, and Kaden–come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.
Boom. All time favorite shelf.
How do you teach someone who has never seen a fire how to build one? Do you detail the basic principle of air + fuel + heat? Start at its most basic structure? Explain all the kindling one must first lay if you want the flame to last? And from there, what next? The tinder and the spark? How to array the larger logs to keep them burning long into the night?
The same dilemma holds true for this series. Like fire, these books are something that have to be experienced from start to finish to be understood. They have to be felt like a flame upon the mind.
If The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne is a fire:
The Emperor’s Blades is the kindling. Piece by painstaking piece of plot, world building, and characterization laid out just so in perfect alignment.
The Providence of Fire is the already smoldering tinder Staveley stuffs between the cracks to begin destabilizing the most vulnerable pieces of kindling before the match is even lit.
The Last Mortal Bond is the spark that triggers the conflagration. Halfway through it, Staveley decides the flames aren’t high enough and tosses a handful of demolitions onto the pyre.
These books comprise one of the most brutal, gut-wrenching, raw, emotional, masterfully told, brilliantly plotted, beautifully written series I have ever had the pleasure of reading. They will go on my “will reread until I die” shelf. I will buy them as presents for friends and family. Hell, I might even stand on street corners and read whole chapters of it aloud to the people passing by.
And who could blame me with passages such as this crowding these pages:
“Night was a foreign nation. It had always felt that way to Adare hui’Malkeenian, as though the world changed after the setting of the sun. Shadow elided hard edges, hid form, rendered sunlight’s familiar chambers strange. Darkness leached color from the brightest silk. Moonlight silvered water and glass, made lambent and cold the day’s basic substances. Even lamps, like the two that sat on the desk before her now, caused the world to shift and twitch with the motion of the captured flame.”
This entire series reads like that. I’d get halfway through a brutal, blood-drenched battle scene and look up from it confused, wondering why the rending of flesh from bone, the deconstruction of men into lifeless meat, suddenly seemed so beautiful in my mind.
It’s not all guts and glory, either. There are feminist themes here, hilarious moments, entire pages that will want to make you pull out your hair in frustration, and heart-stopping passages that will have tears welling in your eyes before you can remember that these are just characters in a book. That they are not real people. That no, you cannot leave work early because there’s a fantasy world waiting for you that holds far more allure than the real one you live in.
I have one, single complaint: that it’s over.
Because what the fuck do I do with my life now?
Pray for a continuation of the series, I guess.