A political coup and an ancient menace threaten the stability of a vast empire in the first volume of a new series.
The emperor of Annur has been assassinated, and his children may be next. The eldest, Adare, chief finance minister, can't rule, since women don’t sit on the Unhewn Throne. However, as the only sibling in the Dawn Palace, she takes it upon herself to seek justice for her father, if only she can discover a way to prove his alleged murderer’s guilt. Her brother Kaden does not yet know that he is emperor, as he has spent the last several years at an isolated monastery, learning mental disciplines whose utility will soon become apparent. The youngest, Valyn, is eager to rush to his brother’s aid, but he must complete his training in an elite military corps first—and root out the threat against his own life. Although the general outline of the story may seem familiar to experienced epic fantasy readers, the worldbuilding is solid, appealing and fairly assured for a debut. The rituals of the Kettral (the fantasy equivalent of Navy SEALs), who use giant predatory birds to travel to their missions, worship at an oak tree covered in blood-sucking bats and whose graduation exam involves seeking the eggs of vicious, sightless lizards within their underground lair, are particularly well-imagined. And if the momentum is a bit slow to build, it seems likely that Staveley is merely putting his pieces in place for what will no doubt be an intriguingly complex and bloody game.
Worth sticking around to see what comes next.