Brian StaveleyThe Emperor’s Blades

Tor, 2014

by Rob Wolf on October 21, 2014

Brian Staveley

View on Amazon

What does it take to be an emperor?

That question is at the heart of Brian Staveley’s debut novel The Emperor’s Blades (Tor, 2014).

In this first of a projected trilogy, Staveley focuses on three siblings. They are the children of the assassinated emperor of Annur, a descendant of the Goddess of Fire whose irises look like flames.

Kaden, the designated heir, has spent the last eight years training in far off mountains with monks. He’s physically strong and he’s learned to withstand deprivation. He’s also an expert at drawing pictures, capturing images perfectly in his memory and suffering the abuse of his never-satisfied teachers without complaint. But is he ready to take on the responsibilities of emperor, a position that will require him to hold together alliances, manage a large-scale bureaucracy, and foster the admiration of citizens on two continents?

In his interview on New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Staveley describes the three types of tension that power good storytelling: psychological, social, and environmental. “If you’re writing a mountaineering story,” he explains, “the psychological tension might be one character’s fear of heights, and the social tension might be that two of the characters on the expedition hate each other, and then the environmental tension would be that there are constant avalanches trying to destroy them. And I think the stories I like … combine all three of those.”

Staveley also discusses how his experiences teaching ancient history, world religion and comparative philosophy to high school students helped him with world-building, his method for keeping track of his numerous characters and storylines (lots and lots of Word files), and the difficult task his characters face of separating myth from historical fact.

Staveley’s vision is enormous. Not only is The Emperor’s Blades itself intricate and multi-layered, but the author had originally envisioned writing seven books. His editor at Tor limited him to three, and Staveley expects to wrap up the series (known as the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne) with the final installment in 2016. But with four books on the chopping block, readers can expect eventually to hear more about the world in which these events take places.

“The world is a large place,” he says. “There are always other stories to tell.”

You can learn more about Brian Staveley via his website and more about the host of New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Rob Wolf, here.

{ 0 comments }

Robert SilverbergScience Fiction: 101: Exploring the Craft of Science Fiction

October 7, 2014

Science Fiction: 101 (Roc, 2014) isn’t just an “exploration of the craft of science fiction” as its subtitle says; it’s also about the impact the stories in this anthology had on the imagination of a young boy. That boy was Robert Silverberg, who was so inspired by the stories he found in pulpy magazines with names [...]

Read the full article →

Max GladstoneFull Fathom Five

September 22, 2014

Full Fathom Five (Tor, 2014) the third and most recent novel in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence, features dying divinities and depositions, idols and investments, priestesses and poets, offerings to gods and options for shareholders. As he explains in the podcast, Gladstone traces his initial inspiration for his Craft Sequence to, among other things, his several years [...]

Read the full article →

Andy WeirThe Martian

September 6, 2014

Strand a man on Mars with only a fraction of the supplies he needs to survive and what do you get? A bestseller. Andy Weir’s The Martian (Crown, 2014) has been on a journey almost as remarkable as its protagonist, but instead of surviving on an airless, waterless planet, The Martian has survived the inhospitable [...]

Read the full article →

James L. CambiasA Darkling Sea

August 19, 2014

History is shaped by cultures interacting either peacefully (through trade or art, for example) or violently, through war or colonialism. There doesn’t seem to be any way to avoid cultural intermixing—on Earth, at least. Science fiction is another story. The crew of Star Trek was bound by the Prime Directive, the United Federation of Planets’ regulation that [...]

Read the full article →

Shelbi WescottVirulent

August 4, 2014

It wasn’t until Shelbi Wescott was deep into her career as a high school teacher that she published her first novel, Virulent: The Release (Arthur Press, 2013). The inspiration for the story came during a class for students who weren’t reading at grade level. “Part of my job in that class is to get students excited about literature,” [...]

Read the full article →

Emmi ItärantaMemory of Water

July 22, 2014

It’s clear to most scientists that human activity fuels climate change. What’s less clear is global warming’s long-term impact on geography, ecosystems and human society. If global warming continues at its current pace, what will life be like 50 years from now? A hundred? Five hundred? The further in the future we go, the more we [...]

Read the full article →

Greg van EekhoutCalifornia Bones

July 7, 2014

Southern California can seem magical, thanks to sunny skies, warm weather, orange groves and movie stars. In Greg van Eekhout’s California Bones (Tor Books, 2014) the magic is real. The Kingdom of Southern California is ruled by osteomancers who draw power and wealth from potions derived from the bones of magical creatures. In his conversation with Rob [...]

Read the full article →

Chuck AdlerWizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction

February 14, 2014

[Re-posted with permission from Wild About Math] I’ve admitted before that Physics and I have never gotten along. But, science fiction is something I enjoy. So, when Princeton University Press sent me a copy of Physics Professor Chuck Adler‘s new book Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction I was intrigued enough that I wanted [...]

Read the full article →

Ben HatkeLegends of Zita the Spacegirl

September 2, 2013

In this sequel to Zita the Spacegirl, Zita faces the perils of being a famous space hero. Ben Hatke once again combines whimsical and lovely drawings with a great sense of humor. Although I purchased Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (First Second, 2012) for my daughter, I think that I’ve re-read it nearly as many [...]

Read the full article →