Book Review: Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley
|Still some of the most gorgeous covers ever.|
Been struggling with this review for a few reasons. Finally figured I'd just pull it together. Here goes.
I listened to the audio version and therefore may get a few names wrong as spelling is hard.
Providence of Fire(PoF) picks up directly where The Emperor's Blades(TEB) left off. There's pretty much no time lost and we see the characters in the same dire peril we left them in. Kaden and Valyn are united and determined to uncover the plot that tried to slay them both, avenge the death of their father, and plonk Kaden's arse down on the Unhewn Throne. Adare is doing Adare things; sleeping with the enemy, realising she's sleeping with the enemy, running away.
I'll start with Simon Vance's narration. This guy continues to impress. He has a good range of voices, none of which sound forced or unnatural and he does an excellent job of giving characters unique voices so you can tell who you're on board with even before the text specifically states it. One interesting thing I did notice was that a few of the voices and pronunciations have actually changed since TEB. This is probably just the author correcting inaccuracies. I'm pretty sure Simon Vance's voice was designed for reading epic fantasy and there's little higher praise I can give it than that.
So what did I love about this book? Well there was a lot to love. We get a much deeper look into some of the characters and I'm not just talking about the back stories that TEB layered upon us. PoF is very much a book living in the present whereas TEB felt like a book living in the past. If Staveley completes the trend with The Last Mortal Bond(TLMB) feeling like it lives in the future, I will be very impressed.
We get a much greater look at the world and the various factions inhabiting it. That being said, the world continues to feel very tightly packed with everything happening in just a small section (geographically speaking). I don't doubt the world is very large, but for that reason it feels very small. Everybody seems to be within a few days/weeks travel of each other and ALL the important events are happening around Anore (?) as if the rest of the world doesn't really matter.
Tristae (?) is awesome. Possibly my favourite character (after Valyn) because of the way she flits between helpless little girl to hand-crushing nutbar. She's definitely one of the most interesting and not just because of the secret she's hiding.
Gwenna is another highlight as the foul-mouthed demolitions expert. She's worth mentioning as well as we start getting PoV chapters from her perspective... which seems odd. Up until now all the PoVs have been the Emperor's Blades; his 3 children. Now that changes and suddenly we have Gwenna chapters. Don't get me wrong, they're interesting and fresh and probably some of the best chapters... it just seems odd, almost as though Staveley really wanted to tell more of the story and had to break his own formula to do it. I'm glad he did though as Gwenna's chapters are certainly some of the most rewarding.
Kaden is... Kaden. He still feels like a potato. He goes around, he does things (important things), and yet he's just so hard to connect with that I struggled to care about his plight.
Adare is still as useless as she was in TEB. I really wanted to like her and for her character to flourish, but she's too much like Dany-fucking-Targaryen for me. One mistake after another and doesn't give a damn what any of the people around her (advisers appointed by her) say. Maybe she gets more likable in TLMB, I'm told she does... but then I was told she does in PoF... lies.
Valyn, despite making some face-palm choices, is the bright light. I think I would have preferred books written all from his perspective, but then telling the whole story would be pretty much impossible. He's a broken man who is a product of a very harsh past and continually tries to put himself back together even when he just wants it to stop. He's fascinating and compelling and drives the story forward and keeps me coming back to find out more. I can't wait to see how he progresses into TLMB because he's left on a fair cliffhanger and I can only imagine he's going to become even more of a badass.
OK, time for biggest gripe (and it's a biggie). There is SO MUCH FAFFING AROUND in this book. There was a bit in TEB, but that was to be expected as there was a lot of scene setting, world setting, character back story. In PoF there's just a lot of people wandering somewhere, wandering elsewhere, splitting up, getting back together, doing a thing, doing the opposite thing. The book waffles and it slows down the pace to a crawl at times. That's not to say that there are chapters where nothing important happens, just that often those important things are surrounded by the rest of the chapter where nothing happens. The book is slow, lethargic at times, and it's why I struggled through much of it... and why I'm struggling to get into TLMB at the moment.