Seven lives and seven deaths to seal the fate of an Empire... A new grimdark fantasy for fans of Anna Smith-Spark, GRR Martin and Mark Lawrence.
The Emperor is dead. Long live the Empire.
General Bordan has a lifetime of duty and sacrifice behind him in the service of the Empire. But with rebellion brewing in the countryside, and assassins, thieves and politicians vying for power in the city, it is all Bordan can do to protect the heir to the throne.
Apprentice Magician Kyron was assigned to the late Emperor’s honour guard escorting his body on the long road back to the capital.
But even a magician’s power may fail when enemies emerge from the forests intent on seizing their precious cargo.
Whoever controls the Emperor’s body, controls the Empire...
“Refreshingly original” -- SFX Magazine
“This is fantasy at its finest.” -- Grimdark Magazine
“The plot’s surprising twists and turns will wow fantasy fans.” -- Publishers Weekly
“It’s been a long time since a book made me swear out loud in horror... This is a story about politics, faith, betrayal and the loss of innocence, and I for one will be eagerly looking forward to a sequel.” -- Set the Tape
“A cracking read that will burn the candle in the night.” -- Aurealis
“It's exciting at every turn with a wonderfully spun plot that keeps you guessing the entire time.” -- FanFiAddict
“Matthews delivers on the bigger picture stakes” -- British Fantasy Society
“Both bloody, and bloody well written.” -- Fantasy-Faction
“Matthews delivers visceral descriptions of battle, the cut and thrust of gladius and pila, the shouldering of shields, the smell of blood and fear – and weaving through this, the delicate nets of magical constructs that can still snap, inflame or explode.” -- The Fantasy Hive
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 29 members
“The desire for revenge can destroy a person or fuel them for a time, but when revenge fulfilled is an empty thing. In the end, it is how we deal with our losses that defines and guides our future.”
Seven Deaths of an Empire is a Roman-inspired fantasy set in a world where the empire is actively trying to conquer and control the “barbarians” in the forests. However, due to the sudden passing of the Emporer, the whole empire is struck by uncertainty and fear. This book follows two POVs, Bordan, a general that has gained a reputation of being loyal and skilled through his many years of service, and the apprentice Kyron, who is being trained by his Master Padarn, to become a magician.
G.R. Matthews does a phenomenal job at introducing the reader to the world and its characters. The reader is introduced to a world with a focus on forbidden magic, politics, discrimination and a brewing rebellion. Although there is a lot of political manoeuvring, the reader is never left confused. Matthews writing style is very accessible, and the pacing is phenomenal, making the reader feel immersed in this world from the first page. This book reads like a classical fantasy, but the fast pacing and the unexpecting plot twists make this story feel exciting and new.
General Bordan and the apprentice Kyron are great characters, with a lot of depths and complex motivations. Matthews does a terrific job at making the reader feel invested in the character’s story by explaining their thoughts, feelings and giving the reader some insights into these characters past. Moreover, these characters are put through challenging situations, forcing them to act on their intuition and showcase their character. Having the reader follow these two characters, which are different by age, location, and occupation keeps this story fresh throughout the book. Matthews is not afraid to manipulate with the readers' feelings by having unexpected betrayals and murders prevalent in this book. If you are picking up this book, then be prepared to get your heart ripped out.
Matthews is also analysing some fantastic themes in this book, such as identity, the value of human life and the cost of being loyal.
The world-building is also great. The world is inspired by the Roman empire, which is reflected in the Empire's motivations, how the Roman numerals are used at the start of each chapter and the mention of gladiators. The reader is introduced to a priesthood, magicians, soldiers, generals, tribes, forest, lore and forbidden magic. The magic system is based around the weave of motes into constructs but has its limitations and rules, making it feel like a “hard magic” system.
My primary “criticism” is that the reader is left wanting to know more about the world, such as the tribes, the magic system and the empire’s history. Although we learn about these aspects, the reader does not get extensive knowledge about this, and the reader is left wondering what else there is to discover in this world (which can be a good thing!). Hopefully, we will learn more about this world in the sequel.
In conclusion, Seven Deaths of an Empire is a classical fantasy with fantastic pacing, memorable characters and satisfying plot twists. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. If you are looking for something new to the fantasy genre, I wouldn’t recommend this book. However, if you are looking for a classical fantasy, done well, then I can highly recommend this book. Although this is a thick book, it didn’t feel long or drawn out. I will definitely be continuing with this series. My only ‘criticism’ is the 'lack' of explanation about the tribes, the lore and the magic system. Hopefully, we will learn more about these aspects in the sequel.
4 / 5 stars
Thanks to Rebellion Publishing and NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
A highly recommended original story, only told in two view points, which makes it unique to fantasy.
If you want something to read which is different in style then it’s this one.
I was very excited when I first heard about this book! The story is told with two viewpoints: the magician’s apprentice Kyron, and the General of the Empire Bordan. The story also contains several flashbacks that go back ask 10 years. I love that the author did this, it all starts to make sense the more the reader goes on. As the story unfolds the reader gets to look into the turmoil that is taking place and the questions that surround the death of the Emperor. The author does a great job of intriguing the reader with the political powers.
Seven Deaths of an Empire is full of intrigue, deception, action, and magic. It is a great, fascinating book about what happens when a once-powerful empire, then when weakness is shown, exposes the entire empire to evil both inside and out. G.R. Matthews does not hold back, and keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end!
I received an Advanced Readers Copy in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Characters - 3.5/5
Plot - 3.5/5
Setting - 3.5/5
Writing - 4/5
Final Impression - 3.5/5
The chapters alternate between General Bordan and apprentice magician, Kyron. I liked this back and forth, and thankfully I found both their storylines interesting enough that I didn't resent switching POV after each chapter.
They were plenty of politics interspersed with action scenes so there was never really a dull moment. I haven't felt bored reading it. I really enjoyed the writing in this. It found a very nice balance between prosaic and plain.
The chapters alternate between General Bordan and apprentice magician, Kyron. I liked this back and forth, and thankfully I found both their storylines interesting enough that I didn't resent switching POV after each chapter. I was always happy to go back to the other one. There is a connection between the two characters but I won't say it here. It's more fun to figure that out yourself through the flashback snippets at the start of each chapter.
Emlyn was a fun character. Smart and ballsy. I enjoyed the friendship that grew between her and Kyron despite initially disliking each other. I also appreciated the fact that they were just friends and not love interests. at least for now.
I really liked Padarn and Vedrix, oh, and Borus too. Solid blokes really.
I hate to be that person, but I do wish there were more women who weren't crazy bitches. Emlyn was literally the only woman of importance who was decent and not incensed. I didn't really notice until Livillia. I think she was just one crazy woman too far, then it just felt like a pattern was emerging.
The royal family, (AKA: the bad guys, cause let's be real, every one of them is portrayed as an arsehole from the very start) are scary in an annoying way. Not scary cause they are particularly villainous, but scary because they have more power than brains. Sometimes that can be the scariest villain imaginable, one that can't be reasoned with, but it also makes them really bloody annoying. Like Joffrey from GoT. Alhard and Aelia are brats. Spoiled brats, greedy and power-hungry. Alhard is impulsive, reckless and thick as shit. Aelia is manipulative, unhinged
Kind of like GoT in the sense that this is literally a race to become the next emperor after his untimely death in battle. A small escort is sent home to accompany his body, but they're unaware of the shit going down in the city as various characters move against each other to be the ones to greet the body on its return. Cause whoever has the dead emperor's amulet holds the empire.
I liked this plot. I haven't read an idea like this before, so this was initially what drew me to this book. There were plenty of politics interspersed with action scenes so there was never really a dull moment. I haven't felt bored reading it.
There were plot twists and betrayals but personally, I saw them coming, and nothing really took me by surprise. Pretty much any prediction I made came to pass. Not that that's a problem, but I did keep hoping something would randomly come out of nowhere and catch me unawares.
And when the bad guys constantly seem to get the upper hand, it's just unsatisfying from a reader perspective. There's small wins, but not enough.
The ending was awesome though. Obviously, I'm not going to say what happened, but let me tell you, Kyron does something really fucking cool at the end and it makes tolerating the royal family's bullshit worth it for that one exquisite moment.
I found the world more interesting than I expected. It's obviously based on the Roman empire, which is cool, but personally, Roman history wouldn't be one of my go-to historical time periods, so I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy this as much as I did.
Something I loved however was the wood tribes, and how Celtic they felt. Celtic history is (ironically) something that does interest me (even though it's heavily connected to the Romans, I know.)
I really don't think Celtic culture is used enough in fantasy. The Celts were fucking cool.
The magic system within this world is quite fascinating. It's difficult to explain and I don't think I could do it justice. But the power to create constructs of seemingly anything the mind can conjure is such a cool idea with limitless potential.
However, I'm always a little bit baffled when fantasy worlds use iconography so deeply rooted in the real world. In this case, it's the use of the crucifix and crucifixion, despite how the religion in this world is completely unrelated. They worship the Holy Flame, yet they execute people by nailing them to a cross, and, I dunno, it just feels weird and out of place. And for me personally, a bit icky (my personal opinion as an atheist. Any form of religious execution makes me uncomfortable and repelled.)
I don't think I would be nearly as put off if it was a completely fictional religion, but this one just feels a tad too closely related to Christianity. I think that's why I suddenly felt so put-off at the end of the book. I know the Romans were Christians, and these people are inspired by Romans, but I just wish the Holy Flame was a fully fleshed out religion on its own that didn't lean so heavily on Christianity.
If not for the use of the crucifix, I don't think I would've had a single gripe about the world-building.
I really enjoyed the writing in this. It found a very nice balance between prosaic and plain. There was enough to-the-point, unembellished writing to appeal to those who hate purple prose, but also just enough beautifully creative descriptions to keep people like me satisfied. There were some truly delicious passages that fed my soul.
Though I will say, I'm not a fan of when a scene is repeated from a different POV. For me, it feels almost like a waste of time. I've already seen this, already know what happens, I just want to know what happens next.
Despite whatever issues I may have had whilst reading, I'm ultimately left satisfied, and I'm invested in Kyron and Emlyn. I can't deny how the heavy Christian inspirations is off-putting for me, but I do think I'll give the next one a read just cause I want to see Kyron and Emlyn fuck these fanatics up.
"How do you bring peace by starting a war?"
After the death of the emperor in the middle of a military campaign, the empire prepares for his funeral and his son to replace him. We have two POV, that of General Bordan, who has dedicated his entire life to the service of the empire, and that of apprentice mage Kyron, who is among the retinue appointed to escort the body of the late emperor to the capital.
"Sometimes simple answers are the truth."
Although with General Bordan I was immediately able to connect with his character, with Kyron it took me longer. His character is not only stubborn, but also very complaining, he was whinning al the time, and he did not questioning things that were obviously wrong, or at least could make you doubt. However, later, his character learned, matured, and began to show good potential. I always find it positive that the characters learn something throughout the story.
Both characters are involved in the political intrigues that follow the death of the emperor, and must find a way to survive. The stability of the empire is at stake, and also the survival of the magicians, who are considered abominations by the church and its faithful. The political game creates a very good atmosphere for the book, very tense, which accompanies the narrative very well.
It is very well written, and I actually marked several phrases that were significant to me. The plot of the story grabbed me from the synopsis, and the pacing was generally pretty consistent. In my opinion, the world building needed a little more development. In particular, I get the impression that the potential of the type of magic proposed by the author was not fully exploited.
In general, a book that I really liked, I found it entertaining, and I would definitely like to read this author again.
"It is a big commitment, to teach another."
Seven Deaths of an Empire is a fantasy saga typically based upon classical lines. Where sword and sorcery clash head-on with political machinations.
There is a nice colourful map at the beginning of the book and a small but interesting glossary right at the end. Plus, a chapter list in Roman numerals.
General Bordan and the apprentice Kyron are two of the main protagonists and are the joint narrators of the story. As the novel is split into chapters, it is easy to differentiate between narrators as the chapter headings are given out in Roman numerals and capitalised. Which is obviously of importance when reading such a lengthy book.
Seven Deaths of an Empire is loosely based around or inspired by the Roman Empire. You can see it in the politics and the gladiatorial based themes running through the narrative. The tribes of the forest, with their leather skin shields and axes, had more than a touch of the Celts about them.
I have always been fascinated with the adventures of apprentice magicians since first reading the Magician by Raymond E. Feist. In my humble opinion one of the greatest fantasy books of all time, easily better than Game of Thrones and rivalling Lord of the Rings.
Although not in that league, Seven Deaths of an Empire is an emotionally charged, adventurous and engaging read. Very intense and enthralling, full of political intrigue. Has some scintillating characters and worthy heroes and heroines.
Emlyn is by far and away the most interesting of the female characters. Mainly because she is the only heroine of note and other females within the narrative are antagonists. At times the banter between Kyron and Emlyn is quite amusing, even if it did get on Kyron's nerves.
The royal family are all a sandwich short of a picnic. Not in a shortage of marbles kind of way, but mad for power, and we know where that usually leads. This is where similarities to Game of Thrones will come to the fore, with all the back-stabbing, assassins, thieves being used whilst vying for power. Prince Alhard and Princess Aelia are particularly worth watching out for with their plotting, planning, and scheming.
Seven Deaths of an Empire is a well-conceived and well-crafted fantasy written in the best tradition of the genre. The start of an epic saga with masses of potential, brilliant characters and a superb storyline.
Thank you, Net Galley and Rebellion, Solaris, for the ARC.
I was looking forward to this book, being a fan of the author's indie work, but unfortunately it didn't completely work for me. This is a very traditional "non-epic" fantasy, reminding me of early Martha Wells, Carol Berg or even Lawrence Watt-Evans, though I'm struggling for more recent comparisons. I wouldn't call it grimdark, either, though I think I've seen that tag attached - there's plenty of violence and betrayal, but it's not pointlessly bleak or edgy. The worldbuilding borrows heavily from the Roman Empire, diligently and to good effect, which at least makes a change from faux-medievalism. The two-handed plot was intriguing and rattled along nicely, and while some of the twists were fairly predictable, they worked - right up until an ending that didn't fully land with me. I'd still recommend it for fans of classic fantasy, especially those that enjoy a bit of a mystery/thriller element along with the magic and military escapades. Interested to see where he goes next!
I received an ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
This book definitely took a little time to establish itself. You don't get a lot of exposition, you just have to sit with the story and allow it to unfold.
It's a story told from 2 viewpoints, which will intertwine down the road, as you might expect. I won't give too many specifics, as that would likely take away from the story (Although it's not that much of a surprise). This is a roman'esque world, with the addition of magic, so feels familiar and a little otherwordly at the same time.
I really enjoyed the second and third acts, and the first act got better as the characters were established. I did find the final part a little out of pace with the rets of the book and it seemed a little rushed to close out what I expect to be the start of a series.
Overall, a good read, and hopefully the next part of the story will be better paced now that the story has been established. Definitely worth a red.
I ended up really liking Seven Deaths of an Empire.
I wasn't sure at first that I would like it as the book started really slow but once it picked up I quickly started to love it!
I really enjoyed the the 2 different POV's as both characters were really fascinating.
I highly recommend this book to people who love grimdark fantasy.
Thank you Netgalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
I did get an advanced copy from NetGalley for an honest review , I also bought the Audible version , Wayne Forrester is an excellent narrator.
Wow.. this is really good “Seven Deaths of an Empire”
A Romanesque fantasy , Magic… full of intrigue …..fight scenes that were poetic in nature.
The story is told by two point of view characters one is General Bordan And the other is a Magician Apprentice Named Kyron.
The story starts with the death of the emperor and the domino effect that follows.
always keep in mind the title of the book. Is in my mind a back character to the book,imo👀
One interesting part I found was at the beginning of every chapter either be the general or the magician it always started with something from the past ….wasn’t long maybe a paragraph …..but the author would feed you little nuggets little by little, with those Italicize words in the beginning of every chapter.
I give it 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️’s