Review: The Ember Blade
This book was on my radar for a while, but I didn’t think that I’d be able to get to it. Then, I forgot to cancel my Audible membership after going through that mess with THE SIGNAL, and suddenly I found myself with another book credit and no direction to run with it. After a quick perusal of my options, I found that the audiobook for Chris Wooding’s next book was only 10 days away from publication. Trust me, with our history of loving the books lobbed at us by him (EBR Archive), I quickly made my decision and started into it.
THE EMBER BLADE (Amazon) is the first in a new epic fantasy series from one of our favorite authors here at EBR. The Tales of the Ketty Jay (EBR Archive) are some fantastically fun books to read. If you haven’t read those, you should put them into your reading queue to be sure. This new series from Mr. Wooding, The Darkwater Legacy, is pretty instantly recognizable as belonging to the epic fantasy genre. The first chapter quickly builds up a world of struggle. The Krodan Empire has conquered the lands of Ossia and there are those that are fighting to win back their freedom. Then some creepy dark characters come into the scene and show us something fantastical, and we’re off and running.
The story really “starts” with Aren, a young Ossian that is neither low- nor high-born, has a good life, and is trying to woo a local Krodan girl. His buddy, Cade, who also happens to be a POV character early on, is chumming around as well. If you know something about my tastes, the fact that we get two POV characters that are proximally close to each other was immediately concerning. The fact that the POV jumped heads so often was even more so. But I kept at my reading with a valiant effort. The beginning was slow, yes, what with scenes of wooing the girl and then building the world and its history, but I expected that more was to come. More goodness, that is.
But after about the 20% mark (175 pages?), I’d pretty much given up hope that this story was going to be anything even close to amazing. After 450 pages, I found I was actively disliking it. The story was moving way too slowly, and it seemed like the author was taking every opportunity — no, likely more than every opportunity — to tell something else about the world and it’s history. I came to realize that the entire story was going to be about the worldbuilding. There’s history, and explanation, and stories of old, and descriptions of the different nations of peoples involved in everything. The worst part was that so little of it actually applied to the main storyline… which was pretty sparse at best. So much time is spent with the two boys in the first third of so of the book, and after some horrible things happen to them, and way too much time is spent detailing their months of slave labor in a jail, some adults come into play and the story took a turn.
It was a this point that I realized this story was being told from the wrong perspective character. But “epic fantasy” stories always start with young boys, right? Well, this one shouldn’t have. Not as it was told, anyhow. It takes a while for the details to come to light, but once they do it becomes immediately apparently that this is the case when one of the new adult POV characters is directly connected to… wait for it… the land of Darkwater. This is “The Darkwater Legacy” after all. The main issue with this is that neither of the boys is now central to the story.
The main plot of the story can actually be simplified down to very little, and it has almost nothing to do with the boys directly at all.
Book synopsis: There is a blade, the Ember Blade, that is a figurepiece of the old Ossian kingdom. There are those that believe that it could be a rallying symbol for the people of Ossia to fight back against their oppressors. But the Krodan’s stole it when they conquered the Ossian people. Someone needs to get the sword back from them.
The writing is definitely decent. I never had any issues with understanding what was going on. It all just took so freaking long to come out. There’s a fair bit of worldbuilding in this book. Okay, more than a fair bit. There’s a lot. And a lot of characters get POV time. I never did understand why that was. It tried to be a story for everyone, and because of that it ended up being about no one. There was no focus to it. First it was about youthful abandon. Then about unfair oppressors and the loss of someone you love. Then about trusting people you don’t know, and sticking to promises that you’ve made. Then about fighting back against your oppressors because Ossia is awesome and Krodans suck. It was just a mix and jumble of so many ideas and concepts that it mostly left me feeling confused as to why so much of what took up all of those 800+ pages was of any import at all.
My conclusion is that this story is probably “the prologue” to the real story, and that it should never have been written. Instead, everything in this book should have been implied and/or woven into the actual story, which is going to start much later. There is some very direct foreshadowing by a druidess about “something dark that is coming” that felt akin to the phenomenally poor foreshadowing that we’ve seen in the Justice League movies referencing the character of Darkseid. This is likely where the story is headed from here. It’s possible that the next part of the story is going to be incredibly awesome and actually epic, instead of whatever this was. A beginning like this has seriously scared me off though.
The beginning of a new epic fantasy series that is heavy on world building and light on its focus that ultimately left me wanting on so many levels.
I think it entirely possible that there will be people that enjoy this book. They’ll be those that are able to put up with the constant head jumping, the plethora of characters, the slow pacing, and the overwhelmingly large emphasis on the building of this new world. But there are stories out there that are a LOT better. The large majority of this book is completely mediocre in every way, but the additional poorly executed aspects of the storytelling, and the fact that it was so many pages of mediocrity and poorness, that I couldn’t help but give this book the rating that I did.
Much as it hurts me to say so, Chris Wooding just didn’t deliver for me this time around.
- Recommended Age: 14+ for violence
- Language: Extremely mild and infrequent
- Violence: Relatively detailed violence and blood, mostly of the sword-letting variety, but VERY infrequently
- Sex: One undetailed scene of a married couple, but otherwise only mild innuendo