.Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne (Set of three) by Brian Staveley (4 out of 5)

This is the first of several reviews I will post from my time in New Zealand and Australia, where I read a bit in between beach time and travels.

This review encompasses the entire series (well the first trilogy as he has put out further books in the same world).

I won’t go into a detailed synopsis as there are a LOT of reviews on Amazon and other places.  The world and concepts are generally well done and interesting. It is a cliche that nothing in writing is really new and there are echos of other ideas here, but I don’t fault Staveley for that, good ideas are there to be stolen and then played with. The idea of a group of people, usually nomads in a wild, or desert, is one that Frank Herbert played with, where the rules of survival are brutal. Staveley takes this and uses a variation of Mongolian hordes as his version.

I really liked that the three primary characters and the several sub-characters were seriously flawed (in other words human) and even the inhuman characters were flawed. The flaws were generally believable and allowed the reader to believe the sometimes crucial mistakes that get made.

Probably my biggest criticism is the emotions felt by the three siblings. I didn’t FEEL the emotions, nor quite accept the fast change of emotions toward each other. The words to explain it were there, but they seemed a bit hollow. Still, it made sense — even if I didn’t quite feel it.

The other issue is the hand waving on the gods. I like the ideas and believe me I play with these ideas in my own writing (and fail, I admit). Brian does not quite succeed with his “gods” either. They play a central role in what happens, yet, I don’t quite buy it, or like it. The gods inhabit the bodies of mortals, but the argument is made that without them humans lose their humanity. They are not explained, fleshed out, or do we ever find out if they really do have the power attributed to them. This may be intentional (the incomplete reveal), but part of the issue is that this becomes a bit of make up the rules of the universe/physics/etc. as you go and not make it clear whether they apply. This is always the issue with fantasy. What are the limitations? We don’t quite get the “rules.”

Still, as is shown by the 4/5 stars, this is worth the read. The side characters are almost better than the main three. I suspect that (just like my own efforts) that is because Brian did not sweat them as much and they took on a life of their own.

Perhaps one last flaw that all of us men need to work on is the women. I don’t have pearls of wisdom here, but the women felt like they were written by a man.  I like tough, strong, women, which Brian has, but they resembled the men too much.

Pick up the first one, see if you get hooked. FYI, with Amazon’s new system, make sure you don’t buy it used accidentally, as the publisher and author then make no money.