Book: “The Throne of the Five Winds” by S. C. Emmett
Publishing Info: Orbit, October 2019
Where Did I Get this Book: from the publisher
Book Description: The Emperor’s palace — full of ambitious royals, sly gossip, and unforeseen perils — is perhaps the most dangerous place in Zhaon. A hostage for her conquered people’s good behavior, the lady Komor Yala has only her wits and her hidden maiden’s blade to protect herself — and her childhood friend Princess Mahara, sacrificed in marriage to the enemy to secure a tenuous peace.
But the Emperor is aging, and the Khir princess and her lady-in-waiting soon find themselves pawns in the six princes’ deadly schemes for the throne — and a single spark could ignite fresh rebellion in Khir.
And then, the Emperor falls ill, and a far bloodier game begins…
Review: I always enjoy a good political fantasy. There’s something about the scheming and drama of courtly maneuverings that is always appealing. I think perhaps it has to do with the fact that one often enjoys reading about the heroic characters, but a good amount of page time is also given to the villains who are equally fun to read and hate. Add on top of that a fantasy setting in an Asian-inspired setting, and you’ve got a book I’m quick to request!
After a drawn out war, two young women find themselves cast adrift in the court of their former enemy. One has been sacrificed to a political marriage and the other is her friend and handmaiden, also a hostage of the tenuous peace. However, all is not well at court as a battle of succession is beginning to slowly play out behind the scenes, where everyone has their own agenda and no one knows who to trust.
First things first, this was a loooong book. And in this case, that is both a good and bad thing. On the good side of things, the extended length of the story allows the author to fully explore this complicated world and the many characters she has peopled it with. It is clear that character exploration is not only one of the author’s strength but the area in which most time is devoted. Given the sheer number of character presented and their complicated interwoven connections, loyalties, and rivalries, the length of the book is necessary for readers to fully gain a grasp on who is who in all of this.
I also appreciated the detail that went into the world itself and the varying cultures, languages, and traditions at play. In the beginning, I did feel quite lost trying to piece it all together, feeling almost as if I was missing some previous book that had explained it all more. But as the story progressed and I simply allowed myself to sink into it, things began to come together. This was made easier by the fact that the author’s style of writing was lush and beautiful to read, popping off the page in a way that felt both classical and poetic.
The downside of the length also has to do with characters and this world. While the characters are all very well drawn, it takes a long time to feel overly invested in any one of them. Mostly, again, because I was having a hard time keeping track of who was who in it all. Honestly, it probably wasn’t until halfway through the book at least that I felt very confident in any of this.
The story is also very slow moving. As I said, the author clearly enjoys spending a lot of time building up each of the many characters. This is then combined with a meticulous look into the court politics that can go on. These maneuverings range from very subtle turns of phrase that hide cruel insults within seeming banalities, to outright assassination attempts. This is the type of book where the action is very muted, mostly restricted to these smaller moments. But as the story goes on and the more invested you become into each character, these small moments are capable of being just as thrilling as a grand battle.
In the end, the length of this novel and one’s own preference with regard to pacing is likely what will determine your enjoyment of the story. I do wish that a bit more action had been included. And while I was eventually able to make better sense of who was who and become more pulled into the story, it still took quite a long time. Long enough that I fear many readers may not make it. If you enjoy slower-moving stories that revel in complicated worlds and large casts, than this is the book for you.
Rating 7: A bit long and slow to truly feel caught up in, but the author excels at world-building and character development.
“The Throne of the Five Winds” is on this Goodreads lists: “Upcoming 2019 SFF with female leads or co-leads.”
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