SEVEN DEATHS OF AN EMPIRE by G.R. Matthews.
Solaris. h/back. £16.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
A messenger comes with grave news. A messenger who shall not be seen once his duty is fulfilled. General Bordan knows what he must do, even as it hangs heavy on his shoulders. The Emperor’s family must be told. His body returned. His rule passed on to another. Duty. Burden. On it goes, longer than the general might have hoped.
It happened the day the army stopped its march. The day the Emperor died before his time. The day the struggle to put his son on the throne began. Kyron’s master received a summons, so Kyron will follow in his wake. Apprentice. Now protector. Amid rebellion and danger, they must travel to the capital to return the Emperor’s amulet to his family, though there are many who would try to halt their steps…
Seven Deaths of an Empire shares its narrative between the young apprentice and the Emperor’s General, progressing through several years of the story beginning ten years before the ‘present day’. This book has the feel of a more traditional sword and sorcery in an ancient world where magic is feared and vies with religion and the Emperor’s soldiers for control.
In Kyron, we have a protagonist we have surely seen before, so it is wise that a portion of the point of view is granted to General Bordan, who brings a little more grit to the page. The Emperor’s daughter is a strong and fiery character that this reader would have wanted to see more centrally located on the page, not just in the story. Same too with Kyron’s travelling companion, who shines brightly in her moments.
Matthews delivers on the bigger picture stakes – conflict, betrayal, cunning manoeuvring – and the characters are nicely rounded and distinct from one another. The magic system is well sketched. The plot moves at a good pace with action aplenty as the years count down, though perhaps sacrificing worldbuilding. Kyron, his masters and their craft are revealed a little by the end, but of his companion and her tribespeople, we are granted a faint outline. Perhaps there is more of her story to be told in the next book…