I have said it time and time again, but I simply love when I get to watch an author improve over time. I have been reviewing fantasy books for over a decade now, and in that time I have read a lot of books – unsurprisingly, a mixed bag of OK, good, and brilliant (I’ve rarely come across something I truly despise). A number of authors have popped into the fantasy scene over that time, and a number of them have started out as OK, and moved their way to good, and some even up to brilliant.
Brian Staveley burst onto the scene in 2014 with The Emperor’s Blades, the first in his Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne. It was a good book, with a lot of promise. The Providence of Fire came out a year later, and showed that Staveley was learning his craft as he went along, though the underlying plot and world-building were beautiful. In the third and final book of the series, The Last Mortal Bond, released this year, Staveley has reached the promise I thought he always had. Unlike the two books that came before, there was no contrivance, the characters were beautifully formed, and the story flowed like an uninhibited river.
Simply put, I adored this book.
The fact is, I have always enjoyed reading Brian Staveley’s books, and not just for the promise that was to come. The characters were intriguing, the world captivating, and the end-goal of the underlying plot seemed to me really interesting. All of these things come together in this third and final book, rewarding anyone who has stuck around (and given the books’ ratings on GoodReads, I would assume that to be a lot of people).
All hell is raging across the land, and absolutely nobody trusts anybody else. We are privy to four separate POVs – the three Malkeenian siblings, plus the Kestral, Gwenna (who is by-far my favourite character of the entire series). As a result, we get to transcend multiple aspects of the conflict that is raging across the Annurian Empire – from ground-level fights to chasing mythical tales in an effort to save mankind. Everyone bears scars, some more obvious than others, and in the end literal tragedy strikes; it does not come out of nowhere, but it nevertheless left me tearing up while I read it for the beautiful way in which it was written, and for the inescapability of it.
The Last Mortal Bond represents Brian Staveley’s best effort to date, but I have no doubt that he will continue to grow as an author as he continues to write. The sheer breadth of what he has accomplished in Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne is magnificent – a truly expansive world in which the gods have come to play, and humanity is nothing but a plaything for the powerful. There is no hyperbole there, and Staveley integrates gods into a fantasy world better than most any other author I’ve had the pleasure of reading, making the stakes his characters must face daunting at best, terrifying at worst.
For anyone who maybe read the first book and didn’t think much of it, or for those who simply haven’t gotten around to The Last Mortal Bond yet, I recommend you drop whatever you are doing and pick it up. Brian Staveley writes a story that is inescapable in its tragedy and beauty, covering peaks and valleys both literal and literary, and leaving you intriguingly haunted by what we have witnessed.
Review by Joshua S Hill
8/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?