ARC Review – Empire of Exiles

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Empire of Exiles by Erin M. Evans. If my review sparks your interest, the book will be released on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

Magic, mystery, and revolution collide in this fantasy epic where an unlikely team of mages, scribes, and archivists must band together to unearth a conspiracy that might topple their empire.

“What makes this book special, even by Erin’s lofty goalposts, is the world she weaves around the characters. Detailed and mysterious, a place to explore and relish. Empire of Exiles is highly recommended!” – R.A. Salvatore, author or “The Legend of Drizzt” and the DemonWars novels

“The beginning of a truly epic tale. Deft worldbuilding and wonderful verbal fencing that is a delight to read. In these pages, you are in the hands of a master.” – Ed Greenwood, creator of the Forgotten Realms and internationally bestselling author

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 a lawman 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. With Quill being the main witness to the murder, and no one in power believing his story, he must join the Archivists — a young mage, a seasoned archivist, and a disillusioned detective — to solve the truth of the attack. And what they uncover will be the key to saving the empire – or destroying it again.

***Thank you to Orbit Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I almost passed on this one when offered an ARC because of how behind I always am on my reviews. Something about the synopsis pulled me in, though, and I saw on Twitter the story included magical librarians, which meant I couldn’t pass it up. I’m so glad I went with my gut and made the time for it because I loved this book.

This book was a murder mystery with political intrigue all wrapped up in the trappings of exquisite high fantasy. The writing was immersive, and the plot was a ROLLER COASTER RIDE of twists and surprises. Every time I thought I knew what was going on, there would be another betrayal or huge secret revealed. It kept me hooked, and I stayed up late into the night to finish because I didn’t want to put the book down. Basically, don’t trust most of what you think is happening because very little in this book is what it seems.

The world-building in this story was top notch. It was incredibly complex but not too difficult to follow once you jump into it. The author managed to strike a good balance by creating a vast, believable world without losing focus on the central story-line. I was impressed with how the narrative guided the reader to slowly learn more and more about the history of the society from experiencing the twists and reveals of the characters’ backgrounds and motives. It was all seamlessly woven together to give snippets of the larger world despite most of the story taking place in only one or two places. It provided enough background to have the story make sense while also making me yearn for more.

The diverse team of characters was a compelling one, and their different personalities and backgrounds complemented each other very well. I loved that the magical librarians and nosy, naive scribe were at the center of all the shenanigans. The different races and their abilities were all fascinating, and each character had a clear arc and experienced a great deal of growth over the course of the novel. I loved them all, but my favorites were probably Yinii and Amadea. Yinii’s story was one of accepting one’s power and leaving the nest to pursue one’s own unique future. Amadea, on the other hand, had to come to terms with the trauma of her past after repressing it for decades, which had some huge ramifications for the larger narrative. Both of these story threads were emotionally impactful and made me feel close to these characters. Even the secondary characters had distinct, and often lovable, personalities, and I’d love to get know some of them even more in future books.

My favorite thing about this book, though, was the magic system. The archivists could manipulate and commune with different types of matter (bronze, ink, glass, etc.), which was cool enough on its own. The author took it a step further, though, and crafted the powers to reflect particular aspects of mental illness, especially anxiety. The descriptions of its use tapped into something I cannot really explain that illustrated the author ‘gets’ the experience of anxiety and panic. Remarkably, the author achieved this without things getting too dour or tedious, which I often find when reading depictions of mental health disorders, especially anxiety. I also found the descriptions could be relatable to people living with other disorders, as well. Aspects of the power felt a bit like mania and depression too (at least to me), which I liked because a wide variety of people could potentially find representation in these really cool powers.

Overall, I cannot recommend this book enough if you enjoy high fantasy, mystery, political intrigue, or any combination of the three. It was an exciting ride in a brilliant world, and it left me urgently needing the sequel. This is the only problem with reading great ARCs. I want the sequel now, and the first book isn’t even out yet. lol. I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.

8 thoughts on “ARC Review – Empire of Exiles

  1. I’ve seen this cover and title mentioned a couple of times on my feed but something about it didn’t really pull me in. You’ve changed my mind with this review! It sounds complex but amazing and I love a good twisty plot that keeps me on my toes while reading! Great review 😃

    • I wasn’t initially pulled in by the cover or title either. I’ve seen lots of others love it, though, and I didn’t want to pass up a story about magical librarians. I’m glad to pass it on and inspire someone else to pick it up too. I hope you love it.

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