Empire's Ruin by Brian Staveley

A masterful re-entry into the Annurian Empire four years in the making and worth every single moment. It feels like forever since I was able to enjoy Brian Staveley's specific brand of torture whereby, through the use of excellent story telling, he makes readers completely invest in his characters who he then proceeds to drag through all nine circles of hell. Sometimes he gives them a second go as well only he times them for fun.

In The Empire's Ruin, we find the Empire not quite in ruin. Gwenna, one of the last of the Kettrel and one of the few people Emperor Adare trusts, sends her on a mission, to restock the Annurians with the magnificent birds that give the Kettrel their name. It is a mission fraught with danger but more often than not Gwenna finds her actions the cause rather than the solution. It gets messy.

We also have Akiil, a thief and former student of the shin monks and associate of Kaden, who knows just enough about the Kenta to convince the Emperor that he can teach her to walk through one. His goal is do what thieves do and steal as much gold as he can even though he will be doing so under the guise of 'earning' it. Through his chapters we also catch up with Adare and she is having a tough time. Without the ranks of Kettrel she is has little to no communication with the world around her and she feels her empire start to slip through her fingers what he offers has a great value indeed.

Finally we have Ruc, a priest of love, though he was raised as one of the Vuo Ton, in the most dangerous and inhospitable swamp imaginable where his natural immunity to poison bestowed upon him a status he felt he did not deserve. Tired of death and killing he abandoned his people and culture and chose a different path. He could tear your heart out but he probably wont. He is our man on the ground.

The three pov's weave together a stunningly good story of struggle, self discovery, responsibility and so much more. There was so much in the original series to love and it's great fun to know that Staveley was just scratching the surface when it comes to what his world has to offer. The Empire's Ruin is an absolute treat of a book and, at 743 pages, also a beast. Don't let that bible paper fool you when you pick it up and think it's an easy 450.

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