Published: June 22, 2021
Pages: 550 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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 is assigned to the late Emperor’s honour guard escorting his body on the long road back to the capital. Mistrusted and feared by his own people, even a magician’s power may fail when enemies emerge from the forests, for whoever is in control of the Emperor’s body, controls the succession.
Seven lives and seven deaths to seal the fate of the Empire.
Seven Deaths of an Empire is such an appealing title for a book that I couldn’t resist the temptation to pick it up and see what it entailed. The synopsis prepares you for the story, but it doesn’t have the vitality that the entirety of the story holds. It’s also pretty much the fall of the Roman Empire with some magic thrown in for added excitement which is quite awesome.
As the synopsis so kindly outlines, General Bordan is the aging though well respected leader of the empire’s military. His Emperor has fallen and all he can hope to do is guide the heir and keep them alive until the Emperor’s body and the magical amulet he carried can be returned to the capital. Kyron is an apprentice mage accompanying the Emperor’s body back to the capital from the warfront. He’s learning how the world truly works outside of the safe walls of the capital and honing his magic skills during the somewhat perilous journey. These two characters are the points of view you’ll follow through the story and they have an interesting connection to one another.
The story was definitely a slow burner. It felt like it took a hundred years to get through the first 30%, but after that it really started to pick up and by the end I was wondering if and when there might be a sequel (there will be). General Bordan’s chapters start off with the chaos in the capital as the news of the Emperor’s death arrives and the his son becomes the Emperor-in-waiting. Spoiler alert – the prince is a massively privileged dipshit and I felt genuinely bad for the general. Kyron’s chapters grated on me a little at first, even though they were interesting. He comes off as a whiner for a while and while he doesn’t exactly grow out of that he sort of grows on you. There’s plenty of action, political intrigue, assassination, and several very emotional moments that left me rather speechless.
While Seven Deaths of an Empire didn’t exactly blow me away, leaving me raving about it for days, I did really enjoy it and found the payoff worthwhile. G.R. Matthews is an author I’ll be keeping my eye on because I’ll be needing news of the next books set in this world, as they necessarily be direct sequels. This sated my thirst for Roman inspired fantasy, military fantasy, and all things remotely political.