Review: Blades of the Old Empire by Anna Kashina

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Publisher: Angry Robot
Publishing Date: February 2014
ISBN: 9780857665041
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 1.5/5.0

Publisher Description: Kara is a mercenary – a Diamond warrior, the best of the best, and a member of the notorious Majat Guild. When her tenure as protector to Prince Kythar comes to an end, custom dictates he accompany her back to her Guild to negotiate her continued protection.

Review: The cover-art looks like a lady boy elf. It also has this unfinished look to it. Kind of “cartoony”.

This novel follows the lives of Prince d-bag and his body guard/love interest Kara. Kara works for the Majat guild whom are essentially mercenaries for hire. Within the guild are different levels of accomplished assassins’ guards. The highest rank and most expensive to hire is the Diamond. Kara is the best of the diamonds (of course) and must relinquish her guild status in order to protect Prince Dumbass. There is this mounting insurrection against King Evan by a host of factions, both known and unknown. Prince Kyth, has a friend since childhood named Ellah. Ellah is chosen by Mother Keeper to accompany her as part of the King’s traveling retinue to learn more about her “gift” and provide truth divinations for the King.

This novel kind of fell flat for me. It had scant character development in that you didn’t really come to care about any of the characters. The story-line falters around the lack of movement. As you move along with the characters through the story-line, it comes to a screeching halt while either Ellah or Prince Buttercup get goo-goo eyes over their respective Majat guards, Mai and Kara. Ellah’s got the hots for a dude named Mai that “Always has mischief in his eyes…” The author subscribes to the NRSOW (Nora Roberts School of Writing) where every romantic interlude is fraught with a combination of lust/shyness or aggressive/tender interactions. When Ellah is fearing for her life she has time to notice that “their bodies felt like one..” and “his sense of balance had become a part of her…” and “his voice engulfs her in the incredible feeling of warmth……and nothing could possibly happen to her…” or “his skin had the faint smell of spring water and pine……” Prince Dunce is the same with Kara, and stumbles around infatuated with her. Ellah is the worst. She is constantly blushing or noticing his rippling muscles and mischievous eyes. I really don’t know why a fairly good author thinks it is necessary to develop a character focused solely on their innate insecurity and myopic self-centeredness. This is neither character development nor does it generate any sense of comradery or sympathy from the reader. I was really hoping that Mai would let Ellah drop into the chasm, then we would be done with her annoying, cloying and plaintive character.

The fight scenes are just plain absurd. Yeah we all get that a Majat Diamond is bad ass, and can run through 12 trained warriors in less time than it takes to squeeze a reluctant fart out. They move faster than the eye can see and perform all sorts of badass things with their weapons. For instance Kara is sitting at a table and some buffoon in a bar (of course) starts hassling her, and she throws 12 knives at once that embed themselves in a chair equidistantly apart and at the same depth. Really. At least make some of the actions that the guards perform somewhat believable. Sharim, a Majat of Jade rank fires arrows from his bow at a hurled stick and hits it so many times that it looks like a bush when it lands. Mai takes on about 15 warriors that have the dreaded morning star/Orben as a weapon (why this is a big deal I have no idea) and chooses to not kill them as he has this code of bs that guides him. Um, yeah. So…..15 dudes are trying to kill you but……….hmmm. They are constantly harassed on their road to nowhere in particular, yet never remove the threat much to their detriment at a later time. Absurdity reaches new heights when Kara takes on 50 armed men in order to pass through their city. But of course she doesn’t kill any of them, as they just needed some bruises to show the guild that they put up some resistance. .

All of this absurdity, from the Majat Guards to King Evan’s trip to freakin’ nowhere, center around Prince Dumbass and his “gift”. See, anyone that might have a gift is tested by the priests of whatever. Finding any freakish gifts, the priests summarily murder the child/baby/dog. Yet at the same time Mother Keeper is running around with her convent of gifted weirdo’s saving every baby/dog/child that expresses a gift and places them in a school of training so that they can eventually save the world. So in this dichotomous world of make believe, how is it that Mother Superior exists outside of the law, while working blatantly out in the open? Got me. Well anyway, the priests demand that the abomination (Prince Dumbo) necessitates the King abdicating his throne as there is no real successor. The King is given a choice to marry a damn fine young princess to join both houses and create a new heir. King Evan turns them down as she is a better fit for his son. Whaaaaah?? Wow. A perfect solution and King Fucknut places his age before the goodness of the Kingdom. Yeah, screw marrying a hot princess, lets go to war!!!! Meanwhile every situation that involves even a hint of Ellah, she is somewhere in the scene casting glances at Mai and blushing. Fug me.

There are a lot of scene failures. At one point, Mai has fought a dozen or so crazy zealots and is riding his horse away from the melee. Prince Dummy sees a streak of blood appearing in the corner of his mouth on three separate occasions within the scene. Yet while still mortally wounded “his eyes gleamed with mischief”. I personally guarantee that you will be happier having finished than ever starting.

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One thought on “Review: Blades of the Old Empire by Anna Kashina

  1. Nice review. Enjoyed reading this one. Laughed several times.

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