Book Review: The Providence of Fire

The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley, Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #2

War is coming, secrets multiply and betrayal waits in the wings... The Annurian Empire's ruling family must be vigilant, as the conspiracy against them deepens. Having discovered her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies. But few trust her, until she seems marked by the people's goddess in an ordeal of flame.

As Adare struggles to unite Annur, unrest breeds rival armies - then barbarian hordes threaten to invade. And unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn has fallen in with forces mustering at the empire's borders. The terrible choices they face could make war between them inevitable.

Fighting his own battles is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with two strange companions. While imperial forces prepare to defend a far-distant front, Kaden's actions could save the empire, or destroy it.

Has it already been a year since I read The Emperor's Blades? I still recall the book as vividly as if I have just read it. January 2014 saw the release of Brian Staveley's terrific debut The Emperor's Blades, the first book in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series. When I actually encountered the book I said to myself, "oh no not another YA story", Brian Staveley proofed otherwise really really fast and I was hooked from the first pages. When I finished the book I said to myself, wow, wow, wow and wow. This was terrific and really a turn of the tables on Epic Fantasy. Blending the classic themes and elements AND bringing new ideas to show. When I finished the review I mentioned that The Emperor's Blades was already a heavy contented for best of 2014 and I nominated it for best debut and best book of 2014. YES IT REALLY IS THAT GOOD (excuse for the caps but it is needed). However with writing such a terrific books comes an even great burden. That of the sequel. And how did Brian Staveley fare with that? Read on and find out. 

The Providence of Fire picks up directly where The Emperor's Blades left off. In this first book the focus was on the three children of the Annurian Emperor: Kaden, Valyn and Adare. Each playing a different but important role in the making. Kaden was being trained by the Shin monks to help him in his upcoming task as the Emperor. Kaden has the eyes that mark him as the heir to the throne. But what Kaden didn't know is that his father was murdered, a delegation is send to retrieve Kaden but not everything seems as it is and Kaden's story is thrown in a rapid. Next to Kaden you had Valyn, who was training at the elite fighting unit of the Annurian the Kettral. Specialized military units that fly on massive birds. Each member is specialized, sniper, mage of hand to hand combat. Valyn is also presented with enemies and the worst part is, is that they are from inside the Kettral themselves and Valyn has to think carefully as who he can and cannot trust. Last but definitely not least is Adare. The only daughter of emperor Sanlitun, her story took place in the palace and showed a very intricate story about politics, she had set her mind on finding and destroying the person that murdered the emperor and her father. In the end it was shown that it was none other than one of the most trusted advisers of Sanlitun, Il Tornja. This was more or less where the story was left. Of course this summary doesn't nearly come to justice of the first book. 

Just as with The Emperor's Blades the focus is once again on the children: Valyn, Kaden and Adare, but now that they are all aware of the trouble that is brewing for the Annurian Empire they each draw their own plan to see the Annurian empire being led in the best direction. Kalen as I already mentioned is the next emperor in line and with him being trained by the Shin monks he has master the ability, the vaniate, which should allow him to travel through the ancient Csestriim gates. Kaden is of the opinion that power lies in the gates of the Csestriim and is in a quest to search out these gates. However as soon as he gets to the place things start to get a twists. The whole mystery surrounding the Csestriim is upped and upped and all that was thought about these gates and the ancient race is something completely different. Brian Staveley revealed only selective bits and pieces of the Csestriim and this time around you get a good explanation of several aspects. Furthermore Kaden soon realizes that he isn't cut out to be an emperor, granted he was trained by the Shin monks but he know little or nothing about what comes looking around the corner when you run an empire, he knows nothing about politics.  In the end Kaden has to make some discissions that will change the course of the Annurian empire for good, whether it is for better or worse remains to be seen though. 

Valyn in the last book had become wing leader of a Kettral unit. He had set his mind on destroying the Kettral unit that was said to kill his brother Kaden. With this action he has become a deserter and traitor of the Kettral. Not only is he sought after by the Annurian empire, his once trainer of the Kettral, the Flea and his elite Kettral are after Valyn to put him down. This fleeing attempt put Valyn life and that of his wing in a near death experience, in a desperate attempt to flee the Flea they see only one option and that is to retreat to the ground, but the wilds are hostile a savage tribe rules here and they do not like the attention of the Annurian empire to stir up trouble. However this is a last resort for Valyn and his wing, they need to regroup and gain strength before facing of again. This change of scenery did a lot for the overall of the story. The first book gave a good picture of Valyn's character and the Kettral training grounds, in Valyn's story in The Providence of Fire you see much more of the world itself and all the other riches that it has to offer. Come to think of it now, the first book might have been a bit static in world building compared to The Providence of Fire. Because not only do you see more of the land you are also readily introduced to a whole new people, who you later lean have set their minds on something as well. Something that might clash with the action of others. 

Adare's role in the last book was a bit in the background but now Brian Staveley involves her much, much more in the story In the last book Adare fought for justice, which she eventually got but with a price. Adara learned that someone else was involved, a person she loves, the advisor Il Tornja. Rumors have start to spread that Adare was more involved that before and Adara fear Il Tornja. She still wants to have her justice and save the Annurian empire and the only way to do this is by raising an army. With all the tension in the Dawn Palace, Adare carefully makes a plan to escape the palace but once free, she soon finds out that the outside life is very different that the life inside the Dawn Palace where you are basically catered to your every single move. Though Adare doesn't know how life is beyond the palace walls she does have a very quick mind and knows how to plan about moving her adventure outside the palace in the best possible direction. Like many other reviewers have said Adare character really comes to show in this book. She was a bit of a background character of the three in the first book but now we see just how tough, resilient and determined Adare is to secure the safety of the Annurian empire. She is one that will go over corpses to achieve her goal, one aspect that I hadn't thought off of her character. She is deadly and shouldn't be messed with. 

One thing that is obvious is that even though Adare, Valyn and Kaden are siblings, there is hardly any communication between each other and they each have there own plans. I know the situation doesn't really allow much of communication but when you see each of them try there own way I was saying to myself come on guys, if only you three would be together it would all work out much better for each other, it somehow starts to feel that all these individual plans are going to work against each other, and definitely not for the better of the three. Once again I must say that I am mightily impressed with the story that Brian Staveley has put down in the sequel to The Emperor's Blades. It must have been a hard job but he did it. The Providence of Fire shows both how to keep the reader glued to a terrific story, that unfolds with each page and taking the story and world further with introducing new story elements. 

Next to the three siblings there are some different characters that you meet along the way, all fulfilling more of a secondary role, helping the three. But they don't feel secondary at all. Brian Staveley really has a skill in showing characters. As a reader you learn quite a lot about them. Take Gwenna for example a girl who is on Valyn's team. Though the story is never really told through her eyes the involvement of Gwenna in the story, with the discussions between her and Valyn make it feel so and by this you get to see her train of thoughts and the things that tick her off. Next to Gwenna you also have Triste and Nira that have a high influence in the story. And this only makes the story that much stronger. Really how you should build and dress your Epic Fantasy story. 

One thing that really had me excited in The Emperor's Blades was the magic system that was introduced. When I was reading The Providence of Fire I had the power and the limits of this destructive magic system in the back of my mind. Mainly the well aspect of it all. There are some very powerful leaches that you meet in the story and they are not to be underestimated. I do have to say that the magic aspect of the story of what I learned in The Emperor's Blades is a bit less in The Providence of Fire but not completely disappeared, instead Brian Staveley uses it in the background and as a reader you never really know when something might happen. Especially given the twist that is shown in the end of it all.  

All that remains to be said is you must read Chroncile of the Unhewn Throne. Yes you must. I already said it after finishing The Emperor's Blades that Brian Staveley is on the right track and with The Providence of Fire he proves once again that he is the next big Epic Fantasy writer. There are some big names out their, George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson and Steven Erikson to name a few, but they have to be careful. Brian Staveley might knock them of their place. And I do mean this seriously. The creativity and ideas that he has shown so far are fresh and inventive. There are some themes of the classic Epic Fantasy style, but the most is all new idea's. The Emperor's Blades focus on establishing the world; the basics, and with The Providence of Fire Brian Staveley deftly further builds his world and makes a bold move in the end. A move that when I look at Brian Staveley's writing career so far will be worked out in the finest details and will produce some shocking results to come. What are you waiting for? Get started in this amazing series! Now. 


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