Reviewed by Nikyta
Title: Blades of the Old Empire
Author: Anna Kashina
Series: Majat Code #1
Heroes/Heroines: Kythar, Ellah, Evan, Egey (main POVs)
Genre: M/F Fantasy
Length: 496 pages (or thereabouts)
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Available at: Angry Robot, Amazon & Barnes and Noble
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads
Blurb: Kara is a mercenary – a Diamond warrior, the best of the best, and a member of the notorious Majat Guild. When her tenure as protector to Prince Kythar comes to an end, custom dictates he accompany her back to her Guild to negotiate her continued protection.
But when they arrive they discover that the Prince’s sworn enemy, the Kaddim, have already paid the Guild to engage her services – to capture and hand over Kythar, himself.
A warrior brought up to respect both duty and honour, what happens when her sworn duty proves dishonourable?
This review is so difficult to write because there were parts of the story I absolutely loved, that’d I’d get so caught up in reading that I wouldn’t even notice how much I’ve read until a few hours later and realized I just covered a chunk of the book. Then, there were other parts that I struggled with; mostly because I was confused or felt like they were unnecessary or repetitive. More on that in a bit, though.
First, I just want to point out that the blurb is a little misleading. It hints at the story being about Kara when it fact only a small portion is about the assassin. Instead a majority is about Kyth with side stories for Ellah, Alder, Evan and Egey’s journeys. In fact, I believe there were only about two instances where we actually get Kara’s pov and they were very brief and cold to put it mildly. I must say I was disappointed in that because I really thought I was getting a story filled with the troubles of an assassin and her feelings towards her charge and struggling with fulfilling her sense of duty. The book is only a small part about the feelings of anyone (Kyth’s for Kara’s being the most prominent) but instead focuses on an evil power coming back into play that forces everyone to find a way to counteract these people who have a very deadly power.
It’s a fascinating story, to be honest. I just loved the depth to the world. I loved that there was so much history to it and that there were so many people that have a part in ultimately fighting against these dangerous new enemies. Not to mention this book is filled with so much action and suspense that I was on the edge of my seat for a good portion of the book. Most of the characters are very well done (with the exception of Kara and Mai, IMO). Kyth and Ellah having the most characterization especially since we got to experience their gifts and how they’re trying to get control of them. These two characters more than anyone grew the most throughout the book and I really loved seeing that growth.
While this story is intriguing with a great premise, I couldn’t help shake the feeling that there is a prequel to this story we weren’t privy to (the actual ‘prequel’ doesn’t seem to be about Kyth or any of the younger crowd). Constantly there were mentions of the characters ‘previous’ missions and situations they were in. While I’m sure there was a purpose to those recollections, the only thing they did was confuse me and add another question to the long list of questions that never get answered… at least not yet.
Add to that, this story suffered from a common trait in fantasy worlds, one of a lack of definitions to foreign words. While I adored that this world was so extraordinary, I felt like the story was TOO complex to the point that it became a jumbled mess of unknown words at times. I think this book could have benefited by including an index and/or glossary just to get the names of the different people and their purposes correct. Especially since the author would use the same titles for the assassins as for the regular guards (or so it seemed), which would then make me wonder if it was a title for warriors in general or some other way of labeling them. It just really confused me and frustrated me because I couldn’t keep them straight.
Lastly towards the middle things started to slow down and honestly became a little lackluster. I struggled to stay interested and continue the story. By that point, it felt like the book was a little out of control, too long, and overly descriptive on places and people that were unnecessary. After a bit the book picked up again but by then I noticed too much effort was focused on cataloging every move of the villains which meant it lost the suspenseful aspect the beginning of the story had.
In the end, I’ve decided to rate this neutrally with 3 stars (and it was good). I loved, loved, loved the world and the characters but at the same time, the world was too huge to not have some type of guide for readers to look back on. So many elements come into play with so many characters and so much happens that it was hard to keep track of at times. If you’re looking for a romance, this is not the book for you as that aspect is barely secondary to the plot but if you’re looking for a complex fantasy with a ton of action, then definitely give this one a try!
Overall Impression: It was good
*I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher in return for a fair and honest review.*