Book Review - EMPIRE OF EXILES by Erin M. Evans

(Title: Empire of Exiles / Author: Erin M. Evans / Publisher: Orbit / Publication Date: November 8, 2022 / Total Pages: 448)

Back Cover Blurb
Twenty-seven years ago, a Duke with a grudge led a ruthless coup against the empire of Semilla, killing thousands. He failed. The Duke was executed. a terrifyingly powerful sorcerer was imprisoned, and an unwilling princess disappeared. 

The empire moved on. 

Now, When Quill, an apprentice scribe, arrives in the capital city, he believes he's on a simple errand for another pompous noble: fetch ancient artifacts from the magical Imperial Archives. He's always found his apprenticeship to be dull work. But these aren't just any artifacts - these are the instruments of revolution, the banners under which the Duke lead his coup.

Just as the artifacts are unearthed, the city is shaken by a brutal murder that seems to have been caused by a weapon not seen since the days of rebellion.

Since Quill is the only reliable witness to the murder, and no one in power believes his story, he must join with a young mage, a seasoned archivist, and a disillusioned detective to find the truth of the attack. And what they uncover will be the key to saving the empire, or destroying it for good.

Admittedly I'm a sucker for a fantasy story that involves mysterious artifacts and a richly developed history of both the characters involved and the world. And this book has that at the highest levels. So I knew right away that I was going to be completely drawn into Erin M. Evans' EMPIRE OF EXILES from the very start. 

As the story unfolded it also became pretty clear that this is the kind of book and series that is epic in scope. The cast of characters is daunting to say the least and the maps are breathtaking and expansive, but this kind of story requires both as you will soon find out. There's a lot of history as I mentioned and being able to get a grasp on how we got to this point is essential to fully appreciating the amazing tale that Evans has delivered with this spectacular opening entry in the Books of the Usurper series.

The thing that captivated me the most about EMPIRE OF EXILES was the mystery of the changelings, a group of beings who forced a number of kingdoms to flee to the very end of the continent where a salt wall was erected by a martyred sorcerer to help protect the newly formed protectorates from further encroachment. But the changelings are still there at the doorstep of Semilla waiting for their chance to strike and looking for any vulnerabilities in the wall. Couple that with the natural frictions and animosities that come with different groups of people being forced to live in a fairly limited space within close proximity to each other and you have the makings of a powder keg waiting to blow at any moment.

This was such a cool concept to me and the threat posed by the changelings kept me turning the pages feverishly because I just craved to find out more and more about these enigmatic supernatural foes. Evans has really hit on something here that is truly unique as I've not come across this type of "antagonist" before in my previous fantasy reading. 

Another aspect that I found really enjoyable were the characters and how each has their own story that must be peeled back in layers to try to ascertain their motivations and roles in the overall scheme of things. These characters do not always behave the way you would expect and I found myself being constantly kept on my toes as there's no way to tell whose actions come from a place of sincerity or betrayal. To be able to pull something like that off and surprise the reader at every turn is a testament to Evans' skill of storytelling. 

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the incredible magic system. I found it to be one of the more dynamic magic systems in any fantasy book to be quite honest. The idea that people can have certain affinities that connect with physical material like wood, ink, and bone, and they derive powers of manipulation in conjunction with these things is just so fantastic and I was mesmerized by this whenever it was described. And it is also, by the way, the means by which the salt wall was erected. So kudos to Erin Evans for hatching such an amazing magic system through which the entire story benefits greatly.

I can't emphasize enough how much fun I had reading this and I recommend everyone put this one at the top of their TBR. It's a book that is well worth the reading investment and I am totally on the Erin M. Evans bandwagon going forward. Don't be intimidated by the character list and maps, this is a magnificent book that will have you caught up in its intrigue and mystery from the first page to the last. The good news is you don't have very long to wait to be able to purchase it as it will be released on November 8th. Be sure to get your copy immediately because this is the beginning of what I believe will be one awesome fantasy series!



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