There is a part of me that wishes I hadn’t read the review I did on Providence of Fire, Brian Staveley’s second book in the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne. The other part of me says that I have a pretty good eye for these things and that I would have noticed it one way or the other.
Okay, okay. I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Providence of Fire features the children of the recently-assassinated emperor of Annur as they fight to stay alive and stave off enemies who they believe are trying to take over.
Adare is the oldest heir. She can’t inherit because she’s (GASP) a woman, though she makes a play for the throne. She’s a keen woman with knowledge of the empire that her brothers don’t have because they’ve been away.
Kaden is the actual next in line for the Unhewn Throne. He’s been off studying with monks to learn how to shed his emotions at will. It’s necessary so his magical teleporting doors don’t kill him.
Valyn is the youngest of the three. He’s a battle commander, hardened by the Kettral, a fighting force that uses giant birds.
When these things are put that simply, it looks maybe a little silly, but Staveley has created a family that is easy to care for, in whose struggles the reader will be invested. There’s action, battle scenes, high magic, and some intrigue that keeps you guessing. It’s an engaging read that flew by.
Unfortunately, there are some not-so-great bits. All that intrigue would be good if you had a main plot line or a central theme to get behind, or a struggle that you knew was coming, like Martin does in his Song of Ice and Fire. Having all the characters be ambiguous, acting unpredictably, and with uncertainty around every corner can work, but there’s a fine line between intriguing and muddled.
I’m not saying that Staveley has failed with this book. I’ve read it, and I’m interested in moving on to the next, but I don’t know who to trust, I don’t know what the story is about, and the characters sometimes make me shake my head.
This is where the review I read comes in. I won’t quote it for you because I don’t really remember verbatim, but the thrust was this: “The main characters make the STUPIDEST decisions.”
I’m not saying I was biased by that line, but every so often, one of the Imperial family acted in a way that broke character, or felt out of place, or was just so goddamned dumb.
I want to give some of it away, but I understand that this is a new book and spoilers are particularly sensitive. Suffice it to say that the big shock in this book wasn’t as surprising as it was disappointing to me.
Still, like I said, it’s an entertaining book, and I’m looking forward to book 3. I just hope that something gets cleared up, and the characters pull their heads out and think first.