The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

The basics

Title: The Emperor’s Blades



- The Emperor's Blades (2014)
- The Providence of Fire (2015)
- The Last Mortal Bond (2016)
- Skullsworn (2017)

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Goodreads Summary:

The circle is closing. The stakes are high. And old truths will live again...

The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy.

His son Valyn, training for the empire’s deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. He expected a challenge, but after several ‘accidents’ and a dying soldier’s warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can take action, he must survive the mercenaries’ brutal final initiation.

Meanwhile, the Emperor’s daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father’s murderer in the capital itself. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice. And Kaden, heir to an empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God’s disciples teach their harsh ways – which Kaden must master to unlock their ancient powers. When an imperial delegation arrives, he’s learnt enough to perceive evil intent. But will this keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?

Here is a spoiler summary of what happened in The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley to help refresh your memory before you read the sequel. If you need help remembering what happened in The Emperor’s Blades then you’re in the right place.

What happened in The Emperor’s Blades?

  • In the prologue, an immortal Csestriim called Tan’is is assisting with a massacre. The immortals are having their human children killed for being mortal and aging. Tan’is’ own daughter pleads with him, and tells him he’s terrible for doing this.
  • Thousands of years later, the heir to the Annurian throne, Kaden hui’Malkeenian, is living in a monastery in the mountains. His father, the emperor, sent him there to study with the monks to learn disciplines.
  • Kaden comes across a dead goat, which doesn’t seem to have been killed in a “normal” way, which indicates to Kaden that something is wrong. He goes back to tell the monks what he found, and they lightly interrogate him and point out that he did a terrible job of recreating the scene.
  • Kaden then gets a new mentor, Tan. Tan is super strict but seems to know what he’s doing. He is determined for Kaden to learn how to enter the vaniate state, and quickly.
  • Valyn is the eldest child of the emperor. He is training with the military to become Kettral, which are super elite soldiers. In his first chapter, he enters an abandoned ship and a dying guardsman tells him that his father is dead. Valyn is super shocked by this, and he and his best friend, Ha Lin, wonder if something dodgy is afoot.
  • Adare, the emperor’s only daughter, is determined to find out what happened to her father. She becomes Minister of Finance and has to work with general Ran il Tornja to take down Uinian, the priest who apparently killed the emperor.
  • Sami Yurl and Balendin are Valyn’s classmates who are absolutely awful and will show up late.r
  • Valyn and Lin enter a tavern to ask some questions, and the entire thing collapses onto them and into the bay. Valyn tries his best to save everyone, but there are many casualties. Valyn believes that this was an attempt on his life, and that someone is trying to kill the whole imperial family.
  • Valyn has to do a training exercise which means he is tied up and put underwater. The intention is for him to break free and reach the surface. Annick ties the knots herself before Valyn is thrown in, and Valyn finds a very difficult knot and has trouble escaping. He passes out and is dragged from the water. Annick says that she did not tie any abnormal knots.
  • Valyn and Lin start investigating. They come across a corpse of a young woman, and determine that she was murdered the same day the tavern was destroyed.
  • Lin receives a note from Balendin, who is the worst. Balendin makes out that he’s sick of Yurl and has something to tell Lin, and the note asks her to meet him privately. Valyn is unable to accompany her as he needs to do a training exercise.
  • Valyn is almost killed during this exercise, as Annick fires lethal arrows at him instead of the training arrows. Valyn is injured and taken to the infirmary.
  • Lin comes to see Valyn, and Valyn is shocked to see that she has been beaten and is wounded. Balendin and Yurl jumped her. Valyn apologises for not being there for her, and Lin gets annoyed with him.
  • Annick shows up to assure Valyn that she was shooting the training arrows, not the lethal ones which ended up wounding Valyn. This makes no sense to Valyn at all because he was obviously nearly killed.
  • Meanwhile, Kaden is still training with Tan and struggling to get his head in the game. More animals are killed, as well as humans.
  • Valyn needs to complete Hull’s Trial in order to become Kettral. He and his classmates start on a week of gruelling exercise. Lin still isn’t speaking to Valyn properly because he’s annoying.
  • Merchants arrive at the monastery. Tan tells Kaden to hide in a shed, but Kaden sneaks out to spy on the merchants. He thinks they’re acting a bit off and their story isn’t adding up for him.
  • Adare takes Uinian to trial. He demands a trial by flame, and emerges unscathed. He says this proves that he is innocent.
  • Adare speaks with il Tornja about the possibility of Uinain being blessed by the goddess, but they figure out that he is actually a leach and is using his powers to pretend to be blessed.
  • Kaden finds that the merchants are hiding weapons from the monks. Tan intercepts before Kaden can do something stupid, and Kaden is taken to speak to Nin, the abbot.
  • Nin tells Kaden about the magical gates called kenta, which were built by the Csestriim immortals. The Csestriim used the gates to travel through the Blank God’s domain to reach other places on the planet. Humans are unable to use them because they have emotions and stuff.
  • Nin says that during the war, the Csestriim captured humans to study them. They imprisoned them in a place called the Dead Heart and conducted experiments. Some humans’ minds broke so significantly that they were able to use the kenta. The prisoners were able to defeat the Csestriim and became hunters called the Ishien.
  • Eventually humans won the war, and the Ishien weren’t needed to fight and split up into the original Ishien and the Shin. The Ishien agreed to train the emperor to use the gates so the emperors would protect the world against the Csestriim, if there were any left out there.
  • Tan reveals himself to be an ex member of the Insien who then joined the Shin. Tan thinks the Csestriim are making a comeback, and the creature that is roaming the mountains is a spider-like hunter called an ak-hanath, which was created by the Csestriim and thought to be extinct.
  • Finally, it’s time for Valyn to face the final test to become Kettral. At the end of the week, Valyn and the other recruits need to enter a labyrinth called Hull’s Hole. They are warned that there are slarn in there, and if they are bitten by the slarn and don’t get the antidote, they will be forever changed. The goal of this mission is for the recruits to find the slarn eggs, which contain the antidote.
  • The recruits are all bitten by slarn (on purpose) before entering the labyrinth to go looking for the eggs. Valyn eventually finds a large nest and a black egg which seems to be from the slarn king, and drinks from it. He starts to feel a bit funny.
  • Valyn starts to leave the cave system and comes across Lin’s body. He carries her body out of the cave, and the first thing everyone notices is how Valyn’s eyes have changed colour.
  • Adare conducts a plot where she paralyses Uinian, so he is unable to use his leach powers and he burns to death in front of everyone.
  • Valyn and some of the others graduate. Three recruits either died or went missing in the labyrinth.
  • The graduates are sorted into Wings. Valyn is a Wing Leader, and is given the demolitions expert Gwenna, Annick, Talal, who is a leach, and Laith, their flier. Laith is reckless, Gwenna is short tempered, Annick doesn’t talk much, and Talal doesn’t have super strong leach powers, unfortunately.
  • The group have to go on their first training exercise and it goes horribly.
  • They figure out that Yurl and Balendin were behind Lin’s murder and the attempts on Valyn’s life. Balendin, being a powerful leach, uses emotion to stock up his powers. They call this a well. The group are about to confront the pair, but they find that Yurl’s Wing left and are heading north.
  • Not only that, but Valyn’s Wing is grounded because they’re to be investigated. Valyn thinks Yurl is after his brother, Kaden, so he and his Wing head north too.
  • An embassy arrives at the monastery, led by a minister named Adiv and the commander of the late emperor’s guard, Ut. They tell Kaden that his father is dead, and that Kaden is the new emperor. They bow and stuff and give him gifts. They also offer him a concubine named Triste, who was forced into the position and really doesn’t want to sleep with Kaden but her mother is being threatened.
  • That night, the embassy tries to kill Kaden. The monks are slaughtered, and Kaden and co. have to go on the run. The merchants end up saving Kaden and some others because they’re actually Skullsworn assassins who have been hired to protect Kaden. One of them is killed, but Pyrre is able to lead the group through the mountains.
  • Kaden, Triste, and Tan are the only ones to survive the attack. They flee through the mountains, but are pursued by the soldiers and the creatures.
  • Valyn’s Wing arrives in the mountains and try to warn Adiv and Ut about Yurl. It turns out they’re all treacherous snakes though and they’re all working together. Valyn’s Wing are imprisoned.
  • Kaden’s group sees this go down and wonder what the hell is going on. They’re then attacked by the creatures, and Tan fights them off on his own (!!!) so Kaden and the others can escape and rescue Valyn. Kaden enters the vaniate.
  • Kaden makes his way down to the encampment and frees the Wing. Balendin is unable to use Kaden’s emotions as a well because he has none. Kaden shoots Balendin, who disappears off the side of the mountain.
  • Valyn kills Yurl and the rest of his Wing. Valyn seems to have been affected by the slarn egg and can now see in the dark and has heightened senses. The Aedolians are also killed.
  • Tan is found to be alive. Pyrre says she’ll stay with Kaden for the time being. Kaden plans to find out whether the Csestriim are truly returning.
  • Asare is happier now that her father’s murderer is dead. She’s enjoying her relationship with il Tornja. One evening, she reads a history book and finds a note from her father, which tells her that Uinian was innocent and that il Tornja was the true murderer.

That’s what happened in The Emperor’s Blades! Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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