Humanity teeters toward doom in the concluding Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne (The Providence of Fire, 2015, etc.).
The invading Urghul army nears the heart of the crumbling Annurian empire, led by Long Fist, the human host of Meshkent, the god of pain. The Annurian general, Ran il Tornja, appears to be defending the empire, but his main goal is to kill both Long Fist and the courtesan Triste, the human host of Ciena, goddess of pleasure. Doing so will exterminate most of humanity while potentially converting the remainder to il Tornja’s own kind, the long-lived, emotionless Csestriim. Kaden, the abdicated emperor, abandons his ineffectual attempts at politics and devotes himself to protecting Meshkent and Ciena’s hosts. His sister, Adare, the self-declared new emperor, rallies Annur’s defenses and tries to defuse the plots of il Tornja, her baby’s father. Her brother Valyn, betrayed by Adare and blinded by il Tornja, searches both for a purpose and the death of Balendin, Long Fist’s deputy, a leach whose magical power feeds on pain and terror. Many classic epic fantasies have concluded with the defeat of the Big Bad, followed by the wiping away of pain and terror and the start of a glorious, happy future for the hero. This novel lays out a much more plausible truth: it’s difficult forging a future on a nation ruined by war and civil unrest; the past’s consequences persist. No one is wholly good or wholly bad, and sometimes, even when protagonists have reached the very limits of their strength to earn their happy endings, there is no happy ending available, no matter how deserving they are of such a thing.
A deeply satisfying but bleak, dark work; its only illumination are flashes of high tragedy and perhaps the glimmers of a realistic but not far-ranging hope.