Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing a book that will be published next Tuesday on January 18, 2022. If you enjoy epic fantasy with a blend of steampunkness thrown in, you’ll probably love Engines of Empire by R.S. Ford.
This epic fantasy tells the tales of clashing Guilds, magic-fueled machines, intrigue and revolution—and the one family that stands between an empire’s salvation or destruction.
The nation of Torwyn is run on the power of industry, and industry is run by the Guilds. Chief among them are the Hawkspurs, and their responsibility is to keep the gears of the empire turning. It’s exactly why matriarch Rosomon Hawkspur sends each of her heirs to the far reaches of the nation.
Conall, the eldest son, is sent to the distant frontier to earn his stripes in the military. It is here that he faces a threat he could have never seen coming: the first rumblings of revolution.
Tyreta’s sorcerous connection to the magical resource of pyrstone that fuels the empire’s machines makes her a perfect heir–in theory. While Tyreta hopes that she might shirk her responsibilities during her journey one of Torwyn’s most important pyrestone mines, she instead finds the dark horrors of industry that the empire would prefer to keep hidden.
The youngest, Fulren, is a talented artificer, and finds himself acting as consort to a foreign emissary. Soon after, he is framed for a crime he never committed. A crime that could start a war.
As each of the Hawkspurs grapple with the many threats that face the nation within and without, they must finally prove themselves worthy–or their empire will fall apart.
***Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit books for a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
I really, really liked this book. I was absorbed into the narrative every time I turned on my Kindle. The writing was engaging, and the pacing was non-stop. Once the story started, it did not let up and included so many twists and turns I gave up trying to predict what would happen next. The author also managed to weave together five distinct POVs into a clear, coherent story, which was truly impressive. Not only did the POVs complement each other remarkably well, but I never found myself wanting to stay with one over the others. Each viewpoint consistently grabbed my attention in a way that doesn’t often happen.
My favorite thing about this book was the world the author created. It was incredibly fascinating and complex. There were at least four different, well-developed societies represented in this work, and each one had a unique take on magic and religion. I was riveted by reading them all collide in the different story threads. My favorite of the cultures/magic systems shown in this book had to be Torwyn. The interconnection of magic, precious gemstones, and machinery was just really dang cool. I also found the conflict between the guilds and the dragon religion to be very interesting. Despite loving the different cultures, the world-building itself was a bit clunky, mostly due to the scope and complexity involved. There were so many different factions at play, and, while the author did a good job of making the general conflicts understandable, I often lost track of the specific parties involved.
The plots associated with each character were all well-developed and interesting. This book kept me on my toes because I never knew where it was going to go next. There were characters I liked and expected to be a major part of the book that were unceremoniously killed off fairly quickly. The family drama and dynamics between the main characters created an interesting backdrop for the events of the book, as well. Despite enjoying the stories and all the characters, I didn’t really connect with any of them on an emotional level. I don’t know if it was me thing (I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump so far this year) or the characters themselves, but they all felt a bit flat. That being said, each of the characters endured a lot of struggles and underwent much growth throughout the story, and I enjoyed reading it. I just felt somewhat removed from it.
There were so many interesting themes in this book. I particularly enjoyed how the author handled the topics of imperialism and colonialism. The story illustrated the negative impacts quite well and acted as a fascinating critique of they way indigenous peoples have been treated under such doctrines in the real world. I also found the portrayals of religious fundamentalism and unfettered capitalism, and their dangers, to be eerily familiar to some conversations happening in the world today. This book explores these topics in a fascinating way that also acts as a warning of what can happen when a complacent ruling class cares about wealth and power more than doing what is best for their people.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this novel. The societies and cultures created for this one were fantastic, and the plot was gripping. I could see this being a 5 star read for a lot people who love epic fantasy, and it might have been one for me too if I’d read it at a different time. However, my lack of connection to the characters leads me to rate this 4 out of 5 stars.