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One soldier will bear the hopes of an empire

The Kettral were the glory and despair of the Annurian Empire – elite soldiers who rode war hawks into battle. Now the Kettral’s numbers have dwindled and the great empire is dying. Its grip is further weakened by the failure of the kenta gates, which granted instantaneous access to its vast lands.

To restore the Kettral, one of its soldiers is given a mission. Gwenna Sharpe must voyage beyond the edge of the known world, to the mythical nesting grounds of the giant war hawks. The journey will take her through a land that warps and poisons all living things. Yet if she succeeds, she could return a champion, rebuild the Kettral to their former numbers – and help save the empire. The gates are also essential to the empire’s survival, and a monk turned con-artist may hold the key to unlocking them.

What they discover will change them and the Annurian Empire forever – if they survive. For deep within the southern reaches of the land, a malevolent force is stirring . . .


Book Information

  • Title: The Empire’s Ruin
  • Series: Ashes of the Unhewn Throne #1
  • Author: Brian Staveley
  • Page Count: 752
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Rating: 4.25/5.0
  • Date Read: April 14th, 2024

Opening Thoughts

The Unhewn Throne world was one that I’ve been wanting to get back to for sometime now. I finished the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne in June of 2023 with the official book 4 from the series even though it’s really a standalone from the world. Now in March of 2024 I finally get a chance to dive into the new series Ashes of the Unhewn Throne with The Empire’s Ruin.


The pacing was good. Though to be honest, I felt like I was taking longer than expected to progress through this book. I went with the audiobook version which is narrated by Moira Quirk (always fantastic), Joe Jameson (fairly familiar to me) and Oliver Cudbill which was new to me. What I didn’t realize was how much thicker of a read this one was compared to the previous series books. Once I understood that, I just kind of settled in for the epic tale to be told. There are a couple different storylines taking place which may be a struggle for some characters to keep up but I didn’t think it was an issue personally.

As I often mention there was no issues with names of characters or locations to trip me up here. Since I opted strictly for the audio version I can’t speak towards any editing issues from a print copy but I’m guessing they were minimal to non-existent looking at the author and publisher’s track record from the previous series.

World Building

The world building was on a epic scale. I honestly didn’t expect too much going into the first book of the second series within this world. I though perhaps just a bit of a time jump ahead from where we left off. I was pleasantly surprised that our previous story is certainly present in the foundation of things kicking off The Empire’s Ruin. However, there is plenty of meat to the world itself in this book and series alone. What this means to me is I feel even if a reader hasn’t read anything from The Unhewn Throne and started with this one I think it would hold up well enough on it’s own.

I’ve already mentioned this would certainly fall into the epic fantasy category. There is just a lot going on. I think a reader needs to understand going into this read based on the size of the book alone there are probably going to be some moments where things might not be non-stop action as there is a lot of background to layout here whether it’s new information or bringing forward information from the previous series. This story has a rather deep history, large landscape of regions and plenty of cultures to keep things interesting throughout.

Character Development

The character development was done well. Gwenna Sharpe has a rather large character arc with several twists and turns in this book alone. I did enjoy her storyline the most especially once her path crossed with Rat. From that point on, I found myself constantly want to return to their parts of the story. The Ruc and Bien storyline was a close second. The early part of these two was crazy but later on things got crazy and dark. My least favorite was the story of Akiil. It finished strong but the first half of the book just didn’t draw me in well. I kind of found myself rushing through his moments of the book. By the last quarter of the read though all three storylines were exciting and I enjoyed the finish.

Roundup & Recommendation

Overall I really enjoyed this story once I settled in for the epic long haul it was going to be. I’m not sure when the second installment to this new series is expected but I will keep my eyes and ears open in hopes to find out when it will be coming as I’ll be interested in continuing this one.

I would certainly recommend The Empire’s Ruin to any fans of The Unhewn Throne. If you have read the first series, just keep an open mind on the density increase of words and pages of this one going in. It’s still well worth the time to spend on this tale. If you haven’t read the first series I would still recommend doing so as it does lay a much deeper foundation to this book. However, as previously mentioned if someone would start with this book I still think they could enjoy it. I’ve read a few series that kind of jump back in time with later installments and it does work sometimes to fill that depth out from what someone has already read. I think that could happen with Ashes of the Unhewn Throne here then going back to Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne.


World Building 4/5
Pacing 4/5
Character Development 4.5/5

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Chad Barnard

Owner/Operator of The Hiking Reader Blog. Sharing thoughts on books and hiking trails and trying to find ways to continue to incorporate both hobbies together.

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