Book Review : Emperor of Ruin

I received this book for free from Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : Emperor of RuinEmperor of Ruin by Django Wexler
Published by Orbit on February 28th 2023
Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQ, Science Fiction
Pages: 512
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four-stars
Source: Orbit Books

Two siblings divided by magic and revolution must finally join forces and rally the people to take down the Twilight Order once and for all in the final book of this brilliantly imagined epic fantasy trilogy. ​ The last surviving Chosen, Ashok has finally risen up and taken control of The Twilight Order. He promises equality and prosperity, but Gyre and Maya know the truth. Only death follows in Ashok's wake. To take him down, Gyre will have to unite old allies—from all across The Splinter Kingdoms and the depths of Deepfire. And Maya will have to seek out a legendary weapon hidden in the mountains that could turn the tide in their battle for freedom. 
Burning Blade Silver EyeAshes of the Sun Blood of the Chosen Emperor of Ruin

 

Emperor of Ruin is the fast-paced and gripping conclusion of the Burningblade and Silvereye trilogy. I was so happy to return to this unique fantasy world, which somehow always manages to feel like the consummate blend of both science fiction and fantasy, and is perfect for fans of Star Wars and Arcane. The two previous entries of the trilogy saw Maya and Gyre—powerful siblings separated at a young age and shaped by very different experiences—ultimately ending up on opposite sides of a war, so I was thrilled to see them finally teaming up and working together in Emperor of Ruin.

 

“He broke off, looking at Gyre. ‘This is him, isn’t it? Your brother, Silvereye.’

‘The eye does sort of give it away,’ Gyre said mildly.
‘Forgive me for asking, but isn’t he on the other side?’
‘It’s a long story, and I’ll catch you up later,’ Maya said.”

 

Brought together by their desperation to vanquish a common enemy and to save the world, the two learn to not only get to know one another again, but also to trust each other, which is so satisfying to watch. I loved seeing Gyre and Maya, as well as their allies—who were often former foes—learning to look at things they thought they knew with new perspectives and open minds. It doesn’t hurt that all of these characters are already likable and feel like old friends.

 

Emperor of Ruin is incredibly fast-paced and hurtles towards its action-packed conclusion at breakneck speed. I read the book in only two sittings, each night staying up until the early hours of the morning. I couldn’t put the book down and time flew while reading it. Though the fact that the action never stops makes for a very exciting read, I found that I actually wished the novel would slow down.

 

Emperor of Ruin is very much a plot based book more than a character driven one. Even though I love all of the characters, there just simply isn’t enough time to spend on their thoughts, feelings, and reservations, in the face of all of the action going on. Even though I knew the world was at war and there was a lot at stake, I am a huge fan of character development and all of these characters, so I was a little bummed by the focus on the story over the characters, despite being incredibly invested in the story. It didn’t help matters much that an entirely new character is introduced and takes up a lot of the focus.

 

Readers can quickly figure out what this character’s role in the story is. Other reviewers have referred to this character as a plot device, and it’s true, though I think it’s worth mentioning that I found this character to be a likable plot device. However, I wish there had been more mystery surrounding who she was and more of a slow build up to her eventual purpose in the story. Instead, events unfolded very quickly, resulting in an emotional payoff that wasn’t as intense as it could have been. I also felt, perhaps naively, that there had to be a “better” way to show this arc of the story rather than introducing a brand new character for this express objective in the eleventh hour of the trilogy. To make matters worse, this character didn’t have a huge amount of depth or substance beyond her one part in the story, which made it even more obvious that she was a narrative tool.

 

“‘I’m not saying it won’t be difficult.’ Gyre said. ‘Maybe impossible. Probably I’ll die in the attempt. But that was true when I decided to take on the Order, so I don’t see why it should stop me now.’ He shrugged. ‘I can’t speak for anyone else, of course.’

‘Gyre is right,’ Maya said, ‘Maybe it is impossible, but I’m going to try.'”

 

Just like the fact that there didn’t seem to be enough time for this new character’s foundation and development, the fast pace of Emperor of Ruin didn’t leave a lot of time left for believable dissension among Maya and Gyre’s followers, allies, and acquaintances. Everything seemed to come together a little too easily in my eyes. People came out of the woodwork (sometimes even from possible deaths), to support the siblings’ uprising, even if it took betrayal or risking their lives and that of loved ones’, and all based on the words and merit of Gyre and Maya. There weren’t a whole lot of questions being asked and it was very hard to justify the unshakeable loyalty with the magnitude of what was being asked of these characters—to overthrow a literal returned god who claimed to have the best interests of the world in mind.

 

Whenever any doubts were actually raised, they were glossed over with a bit of an incredibly well-received pep talk.  I also found it even harder to believe that the right person needed for a task, job, or a certain expertise was always readily available or willing to drop everything to support Maya and Gyre with little to no arm-pulling. Whether a construct or a dhakim expert, a scout, a super nerd, experienced rebellion leader, or other former allies—all of these gifted characters showed up, no matter how seemingly ridiculous or dangerous the task.

 

Funnily enough, this rebellion and all of these characters coming together to join forces seemed so easy to me that I even convinced myself that one character out of the main cast was really a traitor. I braced myself for this shocking reveal, only to find out that the character was not anything but completely loyal to the cause. Later on, I ended up in much the same boat when I found that I had trouble believing that the Big Boss was truly defeated after The Final Battle. Surely The Bad Guy couldn’t be defeated after such a short, but admittedly epic and fitting, battle? It seemed unreal to me that this scene was all it took. Perhaps author Django Wexler actually did too good job of crafting his villain into a convincingly despicable, but terrifyingly powerful creature with the tenacity of a cockroach. I was very uneasy about the circumstances of the big showdown and honestly, a part of me is still suspicious about the results after finishing the novel.

 

Despite everything going a little too smoothly and quickly for my liking in Emperor of Ruin,  the novel overall was exciting and presented a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Seeing all of the characters, many of whom were previously out for each other’s blood during the war, working together against past grievances and previous alliances was so much fun. It honestly felt like the ultimate fan service to have all of these former foes interacting together. I especially loved seeing Gyre experience where Maya grew up and how her life differed from his. It was wonderful to see these two siblings reconnect, to see them acknowledge the forces that shaped his or her sibling, and to empathize with the choices that each sibling had made in the past.

 

Emperor of Ruin also offers plenty of banter, which is entertaining and realistic, if a little predictable and formulaic at times. This humor has a sense of ease behind it, feeling very natural and managing to balance out the darker themes of Emperor of Ruin. I also simply cannot overstate how much I appreciate that Emperor of Ruin included a recap of the previous two books in the series, a list of important characters with their defining characteristics, and a glossary of terms. As someone with a really poor memory, I am so grateful when authors include even one of these very helpful indexes, as I don’t always have the time to go back and reread the other entries in a series before picking up the latest installment, and Emperor of Ruin provided three.

 

Despite being entirely satisfied with the ending to Emperor of Ruin, I am very sad to see this trilogy come to an end. I can only hope that the author, Django Wexler, will return to this world in the future. This may be wishful thinking on my part, but I think he left some breadcrumbs to set up for a return to this world and I’d be more than happy to follow them in the future. I’d jump at the chance to return to Gyre and Maya’s world, even with different main characters, to see the long lasting effects of Gyre and Maya’s actions and their aftermath. Whether or not a return to this world happens, I certainly will be on the lookout for any and all works of Django Wexler’s in the future.

 

If you are looking for an actually completed epic fantasy series with a likable cast of characters, plenty of action, unique world-building, and a satisfying ending, pick up the Burningblade and Silvereye trilogy immediately, starting with book one, Ashes of the Sun.

 

four-stars
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Book Review : Emperor of Ruin - Blogging with Dragons

Posted February 22, 2023 in ARCS, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Science Fiction

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