The Last Mortal Bond – Brian Staveley

Synopsis: The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne reaches its epic conclusion as war engulfs the Annurian Empire.

Corey: It’s hard to believe this is over. Even though we’ll be getting more books set in the same world….this story is over. This book was so massive in scope. Just epic in every sense of the word. I know we try to keep our reviews relatively spoiler-free, which makes this one extra difficult to write! But I loved it…I don’t think this series could have ended any other way.

Holly: It is always somewhat bittersweet when finishing a series. You are done with the characters you have come to know in these exact situations as they currently are. I don’t want to say goodbye to them.. but at the same time, we really were run the gamut throughout!

This truly was a sweeping, epic fantasy series! By the end of it, you feel as though you have been through a long journey with these characters – seeking revenge; jumping through inter-dimensional portals; holding off Urghul attacks; riding alongside them on ‘Ra.. what an incredible adventure Staveley has written!

Corey: Yeah, the character arcs and transformations are kind of astonishing. Over the course of three books, some of these people are almost unrecognizable from where they began. And certainly not always for the best. That said, I think we can both appreciate what a big role Gwenna plays in this last book, and how rewarding it was to see her grow into a leadership role, however reluctantly. And she just fucking owned it.

Holly: Gwenna was one of my favorite characters from pretty much the word go in The Emperor’s Blades! I completely agree with you, her character development was just beyond. It is a beautiful thing, to see an already good character become an even better character & to have their story expanded on in such a natural way. I know we both would REALLY love a Gwenna standalone.. or hell, an entire series!

Unfortunately, my favorite POV Valyn doesn’t show up for the first 120 pages or so in this final installment. And to say he is a changed character is an understatement. I’m not quite sure I agree with how his character played out, because of his training & the kind of person he seemed to be.. he really became a shell of his former self. He was so broken. Now, normally I love that. But for some reason I just couldn’t picture Valyn like, well.. this. Darker does not always equal more interesting. It seemed like a wasted opportunity. However, I can respect the choices with which Staveley chose to take with him. It was certainly a tragic unfolding!

Corey: He certainly goes down a much darker path than I had expected. But real talk, the first Valyn chapter in this book is possibly my favorite part of the whole series. It was weird and disorienting and ultimately just so badass. I honestly didn’t mind waiting for him to show up, especially when you consider the length of the book, and the overall impact he had on the story. On the other hand, I was a little sad that Pyrre had such a minor role here, not much more than a cameo. Still…Pyrre is just…fucking amazing.

Holly: And Pyrre will have her own installment with Skullsworn, so there’s that!

I was impressed by the growth of Triste in this book. I mean, she was such a relatively minor character & the role she ended up playing in this was pretty great. I really appreciated the liberties that were taken with her & with Kaden, actually. Kaden has always been fairly consistent, now that I think about it. I don’t usually appreciate those characters as much. I’m all into the badass warrior savage beasts that fuck shit up & are broken emotionally. But Kaden.. at the end of the day, he is just trying to protect his people. He wasn’t a throwaway POV at all. He was definitely needed in this series. And I am not usually one for romance in my books, unless it is a part of a bigger story (which this was.) Just.. goddamnit, Staveley! What a tender & raw relationship these two had. It was beautiful ::internally sobbing::
Corey: So obviously there’s a balance between all these great character moments we’ve talked about, and the action sequences. And I mean…holy shit, right? The kettral scenes are just thrilling! All due respect to Tolkien, but some of the kettral in this book make the eagles from The Lord of the Rings look like fuzzy ducklings by comparison! The flying scenes are dizzying, and just trying to envision these massive birds that can carry multiple people ON THEIR TALONS….it’s exciting!

Holly: The Kettral scenes are some of the most stunning I have ever read, for real. I had a lump in my throat during a lot of the action sequences involving the birds. It was just incredible imagery! Not to mention how brilliantly written The Flea’s Wing was in general! I mean, how fucking awesome was The Flea?! He is such a fantastic character!

I don’t think we can properly express just how grand this series is. It should be classed right alongside the accomplished fantasy greats like Tolkien & GRRM. This series is epic in every sense of the word!

Corey: I love The Flea so much! His whole Wing. Super fascinating group of characters, and I can only hope we see more of them somewhere, somehow.

I agree. Like….this series is important! Everyone needs to check these books out!

Holly: We haven’t even touched on half of the characters! This book, this series.. it is just so FULL. Chock-full of masterfully written characters. Annick, Adare, Talal, Nira, Laith, Sigrid, Huutsuu, il Tornja, Long Fist..

Corey: Oh god, Annick! I can’t even…she is so incredible.

And Quick Jak! And Qora! The list goes on! So many interesting personalities.

Holly: The expectations that were set after the first book were unreal. And the series as a whole lives up to them! I still contest that The Providence of Fire is one of the most perfect examples of what a fantasy book should be. So in saying that, The Last Mortal Bond did not quite reach those levels for me, but I don’t want to compare it unfairly that way, either. Because it was a damn good conclusion. It is a dense read. There is a lot to wrap your head around. But it is SO worth it!

This is a devastatingly darker, more immersive book than the previous two. The fact this ends where The Emperor’s Blades began is a testament to what kind of writer Staveley is. The complex plotting, the world-building, the character arcs.. it all leads to this incredibly satisfying ending.

Corey: Dense is good word for it. I know this book took me a long time to get through! And I agree, I think The Providence of Fire is the strongest of the three, but that takes nothing away from this book. I mean, as sad as I am to get to the end of the trilogy, it’s a satisfying end. It’s not tied off in a neat little bow, but it just feels…right. And these are characters I’ll always think about.
Holly: It feels as though Brian Staveley has just scratched the surface of this incredible world & that we have so much more to explore. I think it is a safe bet that we are both fucking ecstatic to continue on with Skullsworn when it is released on April 25th! So basically what we are saying is.. READ THIS SERIES!
The Grimdragons Rating: 5 Stars!
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