Serena’s Review: “Emperor of Ruin”

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Book: “Emperor of Ruin” by Django Wexler

Publishing Info: Orbit, February 2023

Where Did I Get this Book: from the publisher!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: 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.

Previously Reviewed: “Ashes of the Sun” and “Blood of the Chosen”

Review: I’ve really been enjoying this trilogy so far. It’s not really a surprise, however, as I’ve been on record as a fan of Wexler’s work for quite some time. But there has also been a lot to like specifically about this series. It’s been a wild romp of a ride with two characters who are both sympathetic and wonderfully flawed individuals. I’ve gone back and forth between loving them both and then wanting to smack them each upside the head. But here we are at last with the final book in the trilogy. Will my beloved, broken, estranged siblings finally get their acts together in time to save the world? Let’s find out!

A Chosen has finally returned to the world and with him comes great change. While many see the return of a fabled god-like being, Gyre and Maya know first-hand that Ashok is no one’s savior. Indeed, his monstrous exterior barely hints at the darkness within. Now, not knowing what horrors Ashok has cooked up over his centuries’ long exile, Maya and Gyre must race to not only piece together the mysteries of the past, but cobble together a resistance that can save their world. But even if they succeed, each most grapple with the fact that the world that emerges will look nothing like the one that will now be left behind. And will there be a place for a mythical thief and revolutionary? Or for a powerful, near-Chosen herself?

So, I’ll just get right to it. I think this was my favorite book of the trilogy! In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by this fact. Thinking back on my reactions to the first books, I realize that many of my minor frustrations dealt with the growing pains through which our two main characters were constantly struggling. They’d each keep coming out with these perspectives that were either incredibly naive or supremely narrow-minded, and, at times, it drove me bonkers! So, is it really any wonder then that when we get to the final book, presumably where our two main characters do in fact get their acts in order and temper their instincts, I’m suddenly all in? And don’t let this say anything about the quality of the first two books. Indeed, without those character moments where Maya and Gyre were frustrating and short-sited, we’d never get the true payoff that we see here when each has to come fully into the roles they have chosen for themselves. Roles that are much more nuanced and full of compromise than their former selves could have ever imagined.

But while my sudden increase in appreciation for these two characters may come as no shock, this trilogy also had a lot of surprises in store that I truly wasn’t suspecting. The end of the second book sets up Ashok as your rather typical “big bad” who will come and lay waste to the world unless the ragtag group of resistance fighters come together and dramatically hold him off. And yes, that all did happen, too. But what surprised me was the addition of a third character perspective that layered on an entire new story on top of the one that I thought we had been developing. When I started this book, I’d have said I had a pretty clear understanding of the history and world that had been developed. All that was left was for the grand confrontation. But nope! There was almost more world-building and history in this book alone than in the first books together, and I gobbled it all up! Truly, there were some excellent surprises and twists that I think will please all fans of this series so far.

I also really liked the use of the ever-growing cast of characters. I particularly liked the role that Kit played. Not only do we see her abilities with her constructs used to their full creative powers, but the character was once again allowed to be a fully-fledged character, instead of only the quippy, raunchy, side-kick she’d kind of become in the second book. There were also a few twists towards the end with her that I was particularly happy about, especially with regards to her complicated relationship with Gyre.

There were, however, a few hiccups in pacing that came in the beginning of the story, I felt. There were a few quests and and extra missions that began to feel…well…extra. Not that they weren’t necessary for getting crucial pieces of information or crucial characters all together, but I did struggle a bit with the pacing in the first half of the book due to these various side stories. But once I got to the halfway mark, things picked up and never stopped until the end.

Overall, I really loved this conclusion to the book. Not only did it follow through on the grand confrontations that had been set-up in the first two books, but it added so many new layers to the world and extra twists to the story that it ended up being the best book in the trilogy. I highly recommend this book to fans of the first two books. And now that the trilogy is done, complete with a stellar conclusion, I can universally recommend the series as a whole to practically all science fiction/fantasy fans, especially those who enjoy lots of action in their stories.

Rating 9: Not content to rest on any laurels, this book rose above and beyond the numerous promises made in the first two books to deliver a conclusion that is as epic and enjoyable as the best SFF out there today!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Emperor of Ruin” isn’t on any Goodreads lists yet, but it should be on Can’t Wait Sci-Fi/Fantasy of 2023.

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