Publisher: Angry Robot
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the Author
Kara is a mercenary – a Diamond warrior, the best of the best, part of the Majat Guild. When her tenure to Prince Kythar comes to an end, he wishes to retain her services, but must accompany her back to her Guild to negotiate her continued protection.
When they arrive they discover that the prince’s sworn enemy, the Kaddim, have already paid the Guild to engage her services – to capture and hand over the prince (who she has grown very fond of).
A warrior brought up to respect both duty and honour, what happens when her sworn duty proves dishonourable
This blurb came from the author’s website.
It has been a while since I found myself pulled into the epic fantasy saga that occupied so many of my summers growing up so I was very happy when I started Blades of the Old Empire to discover a series I think will cause me to be oblivious to the passage of some serious chunks of time. And there are ASSASSINS! **ahem** Ok so I happen to have a thing for assassins and this story pushes that button very nicely.
I loved how the story started because it introduced a core group of youngish characters in a dangerous situation, provided a hint that a mysterious ancient enemy, the Kaddim, had infiltrated the kingdom, and also the existence of magic. I enjoyed how things started off with a mystery, danger, adventure, and on a fast note. Kyth the prince was friends with Allder his foster brother, and Ellah whose relationship I never quite discovered. Kyth was also infatuated with Kara, the skilled assassin under contract to protect him. Throughout this installment the bond of friendship between Kythar, Kara, Alder, and Ellah stood several tests and I think will prove crucial to their eventual success. As the story progressed not only did I discover that each had a particular skill or ability but their inner circle also gained some satellites who proved to be critical at certain moments and who I think will continue to have some influence. I was also very pleasantly surprised to discover that not only did Kyth’s father still live but he was a capable ruler determined to care for his son and his people. I just fear even with all of his thoughts of overturning certain archaic customs he will let politics have too large of a say in the future.
Blades of the Old Empire is in some ways a coming of age combined with an epic journey. Kara, Kyth, Alder, and Ellah all learned things about themselves and what they valued as they struggled to both outwit and defeat the Kaddim. Some of those lessons were straightforward while others were more convoluted and discovered only through painful experience. As the four youngsters were experiencing their personal struggles and life dangers, Kyth’s father Evan, was also in danger from the Kaddim as he seemed to be the first ruler in a while who was trying to challenge the status quo. While Evan didn’t cover as much physical ground as Kyth and the others he did do everything he possibly could to thwart the Kaddims’ opening act.
Several assassins were key in this installment Kara played a central role but so did the guild and a variety of its members. Watching the Majat Code in effect and seeing how their very neutrality and loyalty as mercenaries to whomever paid for their services could impact an entire world was very fascinating. It was also a reminder of the fallibility of human thought/emotion and the illusion of neutrality. I thought their method of checks and balances or insurance against rogue trained assassins was rather interesting. I know the Majat Guild itself will continue to impact the situation I am just not sure how much will be helpful and how much will be a hindrance. I strongly suspect loyalties will be tested. And can I just say I LOVED the descriptions of their skills and ability not to mention their strong will when it came to carrying out a mission.
In addition to several memorable characters, I was also captured by the world-building. I traveled between cities, plains, forests – some of them moving forests, and rivers. Along the way I stayed in castles, temporary camps, nomad camps, and tied up against trees. I loved seeing how much the world varied and how its inhabitants changed with the different settings. I am hoping in future installments I get to see more of those areas and the people because I found the combination fascinating.
Blades of the Old Empire was a great start to an epic fantasy. I think I have met all of the main players and seen them in action. I have an idea about some of the dangers/difficulties they will face along with what some of what they might be able to bring to the long game IF they have the chance to progress. However, I think some “allies” have ulterior motives or might let other things get in the way such as conflicting loyalties and as such should probably be watched closely. I also think the main enemy is rather devious and has been planning this for quite a while so victory won’t come easily. Given some of the developments in this first installment I can’t wait to see what happens next.
I give Blades of the Old Empire a B/B+