|Review of Blades of the Old Empire by Anna Kashina published by Angry Robot Books.|
In Blades of the Old Empire by Anna Kashina a fantasy world is on the cusp of great change. For centuries the official religion has restricted magic by testing children and killing those with magic powers.
But now the Kaddim Brotherhood has unleashed an ancient evil that will give them the power to dominate all peoples and only Prince Kythar, whose magic was hidden during childhood, can stop them.
Many relationships in this sprawling epic produce a book with interesting contrasts. Kythar or Kyth for short and his friend Ellah are in love and falling in love respectively with diamond warriors of the Majat guild. This guild sells security services to powerful people and diamond Majats are the most lethal.
Kyth is in love with a Kara, a prodigy even among diamond Majats. As a young man, his love toward her is simple, unquestioning, and intense, but these are age appropriate characteristics for his emotions. Kara, although young, almost seems too mature and worldly for Kyth, but she returns his affection.
Through the course of the story the young woman Ellah also falls for a diamond Majat named Mai. He is an enigma, acting both aloof yet charming. He is also a consummate warrior whose masculinity entices Ellah. She represents the plain girl who wants a man seemingly out of her league.
I really enjoyed Ellah's story line because she did not have fantastic fighting skills. She was just a girl off the farm who was now acting on the stage of world events. She offered a pleasing foil to Kara, who is fast, graceful, beautiful, respected, and brilliant.
Beyond the carefully woven tapestry of characters, Kashina presents a fantasy world of rich detail. It possesses a reverence for Nature illustrated in Ayalla, a supernatural female like a forest or Earth goddess. Trees follow her and form her shelter wherever she stops, and a garment of living spiders hangs upon her body.
Blades of the Old Empire is written at a good pace. Shocking action and turbulent emotions abound. I recommend the book to people who like Medieval style fantasy with quests and lots of characters.