Blade of Empire by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory
Series: The Dragon Prophecy
Publisher: Tor Books (October 24, 2017)
Author Information: Website | Twitter
Length: 608 pages
My Rating: 2 stars
Never having read Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory’s Obsidian trilogy or the sequel trilogy Enduring Flame, I had no real knowledge of what I was getting into when I decided to grab Crown of Vengeance then dive into Blade of Empire. But now, after twelve hundred plus pages, I can say that this series is a young adult version of high fantasy complete with a Chosen One character, a Game of Throne-like war over a throne, battle after battle, and lore, lore, lore. All of it set in a huge world of Elves, Demons, Dragons and otherfolk filled with magic and confusing prophecies where the narrative is concerned with the passage of decades not days. Certainly, it is a story which many will love, but, unfortunately, it continued my decades long streak of striking out with Mercedes Lackey novels.
To catch people up to date on this series, Crown of Vengeance begins it all by introducing Vielissiar Faricarnon; this young Elven child the fulfillment of a prophecy who eventually finds herself at a school for gifted children where . . . she is the most awesome student ever! From there Vielissiar’s story progresses through the ages as war breaks out over the throne, a love interest arises, and tomes of Elven lore comes to life before a reader’s eyes.
Fast forward to Crown’s sequel, Blade of Empire. Here Vielissiar is basically nowhere to be found (though she makes a few brief appearances). This narrative jettisoning her for the tale of Runacarendalur Caerthalien, an elf who refused to swear fealty to the Chosen One, winds up cast out from the Elves, and ends up finding a new life as a sort of war leader of the Otherfolk (centaurs, merfolk, gryphons, minotaurs, talking bears, and other magic creatures). Our protagonist attempting to aid his allies in a war to reclaim the lands the Elves have steadily stolen from them.
If I could sum up Blade of Empire in as few words as possible for everyone, I’d say it is a world building extravaganza, determined to realistically portray the clash of different cultures, and wishing to explore the effects of war on groups of people. And if that makes this novel sound like a historical thesis written by your favorite Medieval Studies Professor at university, then you wouldn’t be far from the truth, because Blade reads exactly like a history book much of the time; it’s few bright moments revolving around the clash of cultures, specifically the revelation that the enemy isn’t always evil and actually have their own logical reasons for hating another group. And since I love history and even fantasy world building (Tolkien’s The Silmarillion is a personal favorite.) I could have fallen in love with this book if it had mixed an emotionally compelling story into the historical narrative. Unfortunately, it did not.
Blade‘s main problem is it spends so much time attempting to spotlight the world’s non-Elven folk, realistically portray those culture clashes, and make this world feel huge and diverse it neglects to provide an intriguing, multi-layered plot with complex individuals to empathize with. Here all the point-of-view characters arcs lead nowhere. Sure, these individuals go through things, develop a bit, but they have no destination. The fact there are constant time jumps in the story only makes matters worse, as it is difficult to tell if two months or two years has passed. And even when you finally cross the finish line with everyone, you keep thinking there has to be more to the story, that perhaps your copy of the novel had a chapter or two left out during printing, because there is no way this is the ending. At least, that is how I felt.
As I have said many times, I really wish I enjoyed Mercedes Lackey’s books. She has written (or co-authored) so many fantasy stories, has so many fans that I feel like I’m missing something by not enjoying her works. Be that as it may, Blade of Empire is just another novel I could not get excited about. Hopefully, fans of the series or the authors will love it, but for me personally, Blade was merely an okay read which had no real emotional impact even though it attempted to touch upon many complex societal issues.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.
I’m intrigued by your mention of the Silmarillion (one of my great loves) as a comparison to this book, that – or so I understand – tries to move along similar lines, but ultimately fails for lack of emotional connection to characters and story. It’s a pity, because the premise shows potential, but on the other hand, only JRRT could master certain feats… 🙂
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