The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.
Having learned the identity of her father’s assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy. Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire’s most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.
Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it.
I wasn’t too keen on The Emperor’s Blades, the first novel from Brian Stavely’s The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne, and I wasn’t initially planning on reading the second book, but given the vast amount of praise that the sequel was receiving with positive reviews from pretty much everywhere, I thought I’d give it a shot and I certainly wasn’t disappointed, with this novel emerging as a strong contender to be among this year’s best come the end, even though it is only the start of February.
The book itself follows from the aftermath of the first novel, with the Conspiracy against the ruling family of the Annurian Empire far from over. The book continues to follow the adventures of Adare, Valyn and Kaden, all caught up in their own troubles which are rapidly escalating as each character continues to get plenty of development. Adare is on the run having escaped the Dawn Palace in the aftermath of the coup, but has nowhere to turn to with few people willing to trust her until she starts to claim that she’s being touched by Intarra, the patron goddess of the empire. But to make matters worse, and unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn has joined up with invading barbarian hordes, a threat so terrible that it is forcing the rivals to combine against a common foe. And finally, caught in between the two, is Kaden, the rightful heir to the throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with two mysterious allies.
If you’re looking for an example of a sequel that beats the previous book in terms of quality, then The Providence of Fire is certainly one that I’m going to point you in the direction of. It’s a step up in every sense, of the word, bigger, wider and more expansive with greater attention to not only characters but also the world that they inhabit. What could have been a book designed to only set up a third instalment instead becomes a defining novel that pushes this series into the status of “must-read” novels. It’s just that good.
The book itself gives Adare plenty of things to do after she spent much of The Emperor’s Blades doing little whilst Valyn and Kaden got up to all the action. Her part in The Providence of Fire turns out to be one of the most exciting and engaging, with Adare shaping up to be one of the more enthralling characters of the book with a great element of political intrigued added to her, and it’s good to see that the development of the character has really paid off. On top of that, her supporting cast is fleshed out as well with plenty of interesting characters that help give her section of the story a massive, welcoming improvement.
With The Providence of Fire being larger than The Emperor’s Blades in terms of page count, there’s a lot to work with. As well as Adare, we spent plenty of time with Kaden and Valyn and all of these characters get some great development as their parts become more interesting and more engaging as this book starts to have a greater feel of epicness than the first. There’s a sense of urgency, unpredictability and several moments of great tension. It’s what The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins, and those of you who know just how better the former film was to the latter then you’ll know what to expect from this book.
For such a large novel some writers can fall into the trap of making parts drag, particularly towards the middle section, when they expand their world further, but Staveley makes no mistake here and keeps the pacing spot on for the most part. There are a few transitional problems that don’t quite work as well as they should, but despite this, they’re only minor issues and won’t detract from your reading experience as a whole.
As a result,The Providence of Fire is very good indeed. It’s a far superior second novel to the first one, and if you were put off by The Emperor’s Blades (or even if you loved it), then I can strongly recommend that you give Staveley’s The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne a second shot. Because trust me, you won’t regret it. Expect this to feature on the top 25 books of 2015 come the year’s end for sure. It’s such a shame that the next novel doesn’t come out until 2016.