Review: The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley
Series: Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #3
Also by this author: The Emperor's Blades
Published by Tor Books on March 15th 2016
Also in this series: The Emperor's Blades
The climactic third and final novel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne
The trilogy that began with The Emperor's Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire.
The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.
But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all--Valyn, Adare, and Kaden--come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.
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The Last Mortal Bond is a truly epic conclusion to the The Unhewn Throne trilogy. I just can’t stress enough how much I feel Staveley has grown as a writer since Emperor’s Blades. I felt the first book, The Emperor’s Blades, was unfairly over hyped, setting a level of expectation that I just didn’t feel like the book could live up to. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely enjoyed it or I would not have read on, but it was not without its issues. Providence of Fire set a new level of standard for the series, it was a fantastic second installment and the real test was going to be if that level of story telling could be maintained in the third and final book. I’m happy to say it succeeded. Easily. This series as a whole undoubtedly lives up to the expectations that were set for Staveley’s debut novel. This is a thrilling book that really ties up so many things, and was still able to deliver unexpected twists.
All three of the Malkeenian siblings have changed tremendously since that first book, it is amazing to think back to the young naive characters they were when this series started. Sadly, with this book, Valyn is so incredibly broken and dark. Honestly to just say “he is in a very dark place” is a gross understatement. His storyline takes some turns and includes some experiences I can honestly say I never saw coming. His sections are also not for the faint of heart or squeamish. I had no issues, but I can see aspects that some readers may find disturbing. This is not a disclaimer I make very often and I really don’t want to deter readers from this book, just pose a bit of a forewarning Valyn is not always a comfortable read. That said, just because it is dark and at times uncomfortable I was still fascinated by his sections and impressed with the choices Staveley made for where to take him.
Gwenna was a the surprise star of this book for me. I have to admit, I did not care for her character much in the first book and I think the last book I was probably ambivalent about her. This book, I loved her. Like, really, seriously loved her and her sections were actually my favorite. As opposed to some of the Malkeenians, she was not 10 types of broken, but rather she has gained major strength and purpose. She has learned to focus her energy in ways that actually improve her character tremendously. And she gets shit done. Gwenna has evolved into one of my favorite types of female characters. She is strong, she is fierce and she is beyond determined.
Adare’s storyline was very good but I can’t say I found her role quite as compelling as I did in Providence of Fire. But maybe it is just hard to top her rise to become a Prophet of a Goddess. That is very hard to top. I was also a bit surprised that Nira did not play a bigger role in this final book. She was still there by Adare’s side, but for some reason I felt she would become closer to a major character, which was not the case. Nira was still great for breaking tension and pretty much keeping things real, she tells it how she sees it without sugar coating or beating around the bush. Adare faces major struggles in this book and benefits from Nira. She has not just the safety and well being of the entire Annurian Empire to worry about during this time of war, but she also has added complexities worrying about the safety and well being of her child.
And now lets not forget about the sibling rivalry and trust issues going on in this series. For three siblings who spent most of their formative years apart, they sure have managed to create some seriously messed up relationships. Adare must live with the choices she made in the past, and it is not always easy. Especially seeing as how she View Spoiler »stabbed one brother and watched him fall to his assumed death, and pulled the throne out from under the other « Hide Spoiler. No matter how noble she believes her intentions to be, she is probably not going to win any best sister awards even if she is the only Malkeenian eligible for the honor. This brings us to Kaden. He is trying his best to understand his sister and to get their land in order and protect their people from external threats and war. Threats like Balendin the Leach, who as an emotion leach, gains power from generating fear. He is twisted and is as nasty and depraved as they come, making torture and murder a spectacle for maximized impact to his strength. The worse he is, the more powerful he becomes.
There is so much to love in this book and series. Backstabbing, horrible bad guys, mysteries, legends of gods and non-humans who may or may not still walk the land. It is epic in every single way and it is masterfully told. I just really can’t stress how great this final book is. Seriously, reading a final book this strong is so incredibly satisfying. The Last Mortal Bond is darker and fiercer than the other two books, and the way Staveley crafts the ending, bringing everything together is just masterful. Highly recommend the entire series.
This review originally ran on The Speculative Herald.