Seven Deaths of an Empire
G. R. Mathews
Good Whatever it is, wherever you are. Today on the blog I will be reviewing SEVEN DEATHS OF AN EMPIRE by G. R. Mathews, which is released later this month by Rebellion Publishing.
I would like to thank Rebellion & Netgalley for the chance to read this book. This is my first introduction to the writing of G. R. Mathews.
So for those of you that don't know what the book is about, here is the book blurb that will give just that teensy hint about the story.
The Emperor is dead. Long live the Empire.
Seven lives and seven deaths to seal the fate of an Empire...
General Bordan has a lifetime of duty and sacrifice behind him in the
service of the Empire. But with rebellion brewing in the countryside,
and assassins, thieves and politicians vying for power in the city, it
is all Bordan can do to protect the heir to the throne.
Magician Kyron is assigned to the late Emperor’s honour guard escorting
his body on the long road back to the capital. Mistrusted and feared by
his own people, even a magician’s power may fail when enemies emerge
from the forests, for whoever is in control of the Emperor’s body,
controls the succession.
Seven lives and seven deaths to seal the fate of the Empire.
Seven Deaths of an Empire by G. R. Mathews is a self-contained fantasy novel set in the Six Kingdoms, although there may be other books coming (well I know there is coz I looked at his website!)
The story is set in a world that has several different settings. Firstly, there is the Empire, which strongly resembles a Roman styled governing system. And then there is another part of the world building that is based on the Germanic/Gaulish Tribal systems. In essence, it closely resembles Europe during the expansion of the Roman Empire.
It's quite interesting to see this kind of world building and one that I found to be quite refreshing. I liked how it closely resembled similar governing systems from a recognisable part of history. However, there is the addition of magic in the story and this adds an extra dimension to the story, subsequently increasing the tension.
And let me tell you there is a lot of tension in this book, whether it be military, political, religious, or social tensions.
The main essence of the book starts with the death of the Emperor, which obviously upsets the equilibrium of the Empire. What follows is a period of political turmoil and jockeying for position. Caught up in the middle of this and having to navigate his way through political turmoil, is the first of our main protagonists, General Borden. Grand Marshall of the Armies of the Empire.
On the death of the Emperor, General Borden is given the inexorable task of guarding and guiding the next heir to the Empire, Alhard. However, Alhard is an ignominious, spoilt young man whose idea of ruling an Empire is to systematically crush all that he sees as a threat, and making General Borden’s job quite difficult. Especially, when Alhard prefers to be guided by his sister, Aelia.
Running alongside General Borden’s story, is the tale of a young magician, Kyron. Kyron and his master, Padarn, are tasked to preserve the body of the Emperor so that he can be transported back to observe the proper death rights and also to pass on the Symbol of the Emperor and the Empire. To do this they must join an honour guard of soldiers whose job it is to protect the body and deliver it to the Capital. In addition, to Kyron & Padarn, Emlyn, a barbarian from the tribes who has been forced to guide the company.
Unfortunately, the stories of both protagonists do not go according to plan.
In General Borden’s story, by some misfortune, Alhard is deposed of his claim to the throne and the right to govern falls to his sister, Aelia.
Whilst Kyron’s story is filled with danger as they attacked by the tribes. Amid this, Kyron will have his beliefs and prejudices tested as he learns more about the Empire, the tribes and himself.
The story revolves around the points of view of the two main characters, and I have to say that I found that this was an unexpected pleasure in today’s climate of several points of view. It successfully maintained the focus of the narrative and thus benefitted the rising tension of the book, which I think if it had had more, would have detracted from the story.
For the most part, the book was enjoyable. At times, the pacing slowed, particularly in a small portion of the last third of the book. However, it soon rectified this, picked up its socks and then sprinted headlong to the finish.
For me, one of the strongest points of the story was Kyron’s journey. Throughout his tale, his character grew as he was forced to face his own prejudices about everything. I liked the growing relationship with the guide Emlyn, especially as later in the book he is forced to become closer to her, and I like how the characters interacted with each other. Subtly complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses as they become closer.
When it came to General Borden, I have to say. Gods, that man is a saint. I don’t think I would have managed to have remained as level-headed as he does throughout the book. There is no two ways about it, I would have allied myself to the nearest radical faction to depose the rulers of the Empire, as both of them are pretty loathsome characters. Alhard is a cowardly dullard that should never be allowed a hairs breath near a throne, and Aelia is a screaming harpy whose voice went through me every time she spoke,
For me, I felt that at its heart, the book was a murder mystery, ensconced in classic fantasy. Now don’t laugh, but when you read it you will see what I mean. However, if I went into finer details, I would give important aspects of plot away, which in turn would spoil it for you, and I don’t want to do that.
At times, G. R. Mathew’s writing reminded me of David Gemmell, in that he has the ability to write a good tale and tell it well. The world building is tight in that it only deals with necessary environments. Which I thought worked well, and the fact that G. R Mathew’s hasn’t put out an immediately expansive world, revealing only what is necessary, maintains the readers focus.
When it comes to the ending, I found it satisfyingly unexpected. I am sure that most people will say that they saw how events would play out. Well, I didn’t! There were some aspects of it that I thought might occur, mainly because the writing does transmit some of the events throughout the latter end of the book. However, most of it took me by surprise.
Seven Deaths of an Empire is a book that is full of tension, intrigue, and action and it will be interesting to see what direction GR Mathew will take next.
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