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The Providence of Fire (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne) by Brian Staveley
Cover Artist: Richard Anderson
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765336415
Date: 13 January 2015 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

With the Emperor dead and assassins everywhere the surviving members of the royal family struggle to stay alive and reclaim their destiny. Plots within plots and old enemies coming into the light are the major features of the sequel to The Emperor's Blades. The three children must follow their own path. But their ultimate goals are no longer the same.

Brothers Valyn and Kaden start off together. Kaden though must follow the secret paths that his training allows him to use. He goes in search of allies from a different order. What he finds is another path and more enemies. His path to the Unhewn Throne is made more problematic as his sister Adare claims the throne in her own right thinking he is dead. But is all of that power something any one person should hold?

Adare knows who killed her father. The man she married. She must now look to the very people she sought to disenfranchise for help. But a new enemy lurks along the border. One that means she needs to look past her hatred in order for her land and its people to survive.

Valyn is with his wing and brother. He cannot follow Kaden, so begins the trip back to the capital. Chance encounters with an old friend leads him to be trapped in a bad spot. When the opportunity comes to seek the end of his father's killer, he takes it. What he doesn't know is that that man may be the one person that can save the kingdom.

This is the second novel in a series and is not the best starting point for new readers. There is a lot of back story that is hinted at but cannot be fully appreciated without reading the first novel in the series. So far, the series is worth the time it takes to catch up.

Told in the third person, there are three major points of view that are followed. Each of the slain emperor's children has time in the spotlight. Whereas in The Emperor's Blades, the children were learning and developing the skills they would need for the future, in The Providence of Fire they must learn who they are and need to be in order to survive and prosper.

I enjoyed this novel. The characters are realistic in that they are not the golden heroes that will swoop in at the last second to save the day with perfect timing. They make mistakes and misread situations just like real life. This may take away some of the grandeur for some readers, but I believe that many people tire of perfection.

I am not sure how I feel about the return of the ancients. They seem to be at the heart of the problems that beset the world. I think plenty of the same types of drama could have played out without returning the long living precursors that ruled the world in times past. The fight against the new gods is another area of concern. There was plenty of byzantine action without the addition.

Don't get me wrong, the story is well written and the action is complex, but I do worry that there is an attempt to do too much which will make the series harder to progress and wrap up. Both The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire fell into this trap. The continual addition of enemies and complexities made the story harder to finish. I hope that Staveley is able to tighten the story and complete it without having to resort to ten novels because of added complexity.

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