Seven Deaths of an Empire by G.R. Matthews

Stars: 2 out of 5

Well, this was a disappointment. Do you sometimes happen across a book that should, by all accounts, be right up your alley, but realize that it’s a complete miss? This is what happened to me with this book.

First, I didn’t like the worldbuilding itself. The world is too reminiscent of the Roman Empire with a little bit of magic added for good form. Oh and a monotheistic religion that mirrors what Christianity became at it’s worse – intolerance towards other religions, Inquisition, and witch hunts. Though in this case, we should probably say mage hunts. Other than those parts, the world itself has no originality. There is nothing that makes it unique or memorable, or even “fantasy”.

I am still fuzzy about the geography of this world or the different people who live in it. We talk about the forest tribes and the Empire, but it’s mentioned that the Empire conquered a lot of other people as well… yet I don’t see this diversity in the book. Even the tribes looked like a monolithic block to me, despite the fact that Emlyn mentions several times that each tribe is unique. We are told that, but we aren’t shown it.

Same with the Empire itself. It’s just an homogeneous mass of soldiers to me. I can’t even tell you what the main characters look like. Kyron is supposedly descended from the tribes, so does he look different than another citizen of the Empire? One descended from the original invaders that came from overseas? No clue. 

Speaking of that, why is the capital of the Empire on this new continent if the Empire originated elsewhere? Who governs that part of the Empire? Are they aware of the death of the Emperor and all the drama that follows? There is no mention of that. It’s hinted that it’s a big territory, yet it’s not important enough to even mention more than once in the story?

This moves into the second problem I had with this book. There is no sense of scale. The author hints at a huge continent and the Emperor is somewhere north of it with his army… yet it takes them what, one or two weeks to get back out of the forest and almost to the capital? Considering that they were moving on forest trails and with heavy carts full of with provisions, as well as the Emperor’s body, they weren’t moving very fast. Probably even slower as than a normal march. So if this was a big continent, it would have taken them a month or two to get out of the forest and into proper roads. And the author mentions that it took the Princess and her retinue a week to sail to the city with the bridge… yet they were back in the capital rather quickly after that battle. This creates such a confusion about geography and distances. I don’t “see” this world at all, thus I’m not interested in it.

Finally, I didn’t click with the two protagonists either, though I liked Bogan better than the whiny Kyron. Yes, the kid does some growing up in the course of the story, but he is still as selfish in the end as he was in the beginning. And his actions at the end of the book only prove it. His grandfather begged him to leave and do nothing. His master begged him to leave and do nothing. Heck, a lot of other people who know what they were talking about begged him to just save himself. Did he listen to any of them? Of course not. And by acting against the wishes of the person he is trying to save, he makes things so much worse…

Also, if found that the ending was at least 60 pages too long. The battle at the bridge was a very nice climax to the story with a great emotional payoff… but then the story kept going… and going… and going. Frankly, I lost interest and started just scrolling to the end, reading a word here or there. Even the twist and the big reveal didn’t manage to recapture my attention. I think it’s because that twist is so out of character for the actual villain of the story. Either that or Bodan can’t read people to save his life. 

If this book is a standalone, then the story isn’t wrapped up by the end. If it’s the first in a series, unfortunately, it didn’t make me interested enough to wait for the next one.

PS: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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