The Ember Blade, Chris Wooding – Book Review

Hello Humans! Today’s Sunday post is actually another book review, I know, I’m spoiling you, but there have just been so many great books to review this month that I’d have trouble squeezing them all in otherwise. So, today I am reviewing a fantasy novel about which the only things I had really heard said before reading it was that it was long…

the ember blade chris wooding

Goodreads Summary:

A land under occupation. A legendary sword. A young man’s journey to find his destiny.

Aren has lived by the rules all his life. He’s never questioned it; that’s just the way things are. But then his father is executed for treason, and he and his best friend Cade are thrown into a prison mine, doomed to work until they drop. Unless they can somehow break free . . .

But what lies beyond the prison walls is more terrifying still. Rescued by a man who hates him yet is oath-bound to protect him, pursued by inhuman forces, Aren slowly accepts that everything he knew about his world was a lie. The rules are not there to protect him, or his people, but to enslave them. A revolution is brewing, and Aren is being drawn into it, whether he likes it or not.

The key to the revolution is the Ember Blade. The sword of kings, the Excalibur of his people. Only with the Ember Blade in hand can their people be inspired to rise up . . . but it’s locked in an impenetrable vault in the most heavily guarded fortress in the land. All they have to do now is steal it. . .

Designed to return to classic fantasy adventures and values, from a modern perspective, this is a fast-moving coming-of-age trilogy featuring a strong cast of diverse characters, brilliant set-pieces and a powerful character and plot driven story.

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In my recent review of Otherearth I talked a little about teenage boy protagonists and how I’m very rarely the biggest fan of them, which is an unhelpful way of phrasing the fact that I relate more to female protagonists than I do to male ones, that’s just me. So with that in mind, there’s obviously going to be a fair amount of subjectivity in this review, that’s somewhat unavoidable if I want to be honest. I did, however, truly feel that anyone reading this book, even those used to teenage boy protagonists, would have got frustrated at these two. It was the problem that many characters face, that many readers get frustrated by and that I simply cannot abide – the ‘just talk to each other conundrum’. In all seriousness, the majority of the dilemmas these characters faced (and I don’t just mean Aren and Cade, I mean everyone) could have been solved or at the very least lessened if people stopped holding on to secrets for no apparent reason. So, that fact, coupled with the moments where these characters would lust after one of the pretty cool female characters in the story just didn’t endear them to me, which is something of a hindrance when you’ve got to get through almost 800 pages.

The length was actually my main problem with this book. Granted, I’m not one to usually read 700+ page books, I know others are, so it’s something of an adjustment for me. But I am of the opinion that something that long had better either be rich in worldbuilding and detail or have a lot of plot in it, and this didn’t really feel like it had enough of either to justify the length. Yes there was a plot there, but if you asked me to recount the events of the book I don’t think I’d need more than half a sheet of A4, and yes there was worldbuilding, but it was nowhere near as detailed as some authors have achieved in much shorter books. The fact that Cade and Aren spend around 200 pages (or at least it felt that way) for want of a better word ‘pissing about in a cave’ before the story really gets started is enough to tell you about the excessiveness of this book.

I will say that this book does pick up towards the end, it was worth persevering through for the final moments. It turns into something of a heist novel and I found those parts of the story deeply satisfying, so maybe if you have a copy of this book you could skip through to the last third or so and read that first? It’s an unconventional way of reading, I’ll grant you, but it will let you read the actually quite good parts of this story.

As I say, there are some great moments, and there are some great characters (Aren and Cade are neither of the great characters just FYI) but the sheer length of this and the amount of, what feels like, filler didn’t truly capture me. Perhaps someone who more frequently reads these kinds of fantasy books might find it a prime example of the genre, for me it didn’t quite hit the mark.

My rating: 3/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

What say you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

J

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