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The Providence of Fire: Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #2    by Brian Staveley order for
Providence of Fire
by Brian Staveley
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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Providence of Fire follows The Emperor's Blades as the second in Brian Staveley's fantasy epic, Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. The main protagonists are the three children of the Emperor of Annur, whose murder launches the series.

The Emperor's two sons had been away for years, undergoing grueling training. Golden-eyed heir Kaden acquired the mental discipline of the Blank God in the remote Ashk'lan monastery. His brother Valyn developed martial skills as a Kettral (Special Forces on giant black hawks). Their sister Adare studied politics at their father's side and became Minister of Finance in the capital.

Valyn passed the horrific Trial to become a full Kettral, and acquired surprising new abilities along the way. He learned of his father's death and led his argumentative Wing (including a leach, a magic user) to find Kaden. Aedolians (sworn to protect the imperial family) were sent to kill Kaden but he escaped with the help of his teacher, Rampuri Tan, and accompanied by concubine Triste, a lovely young woman with hidden depths.

Readers, as well as Kaden, learned early in the first book of the immortal Csestriim, who feel no emotions and manipulate humanity for obscure purposes, but who are also at odds with each other. Can any of them be trusted? Their identities and intentions become just a little clearer in this second episode which continues with constant action, treachery at every turn, fascinating characters, and of course magic.

The Csestriim made a network of Gates, one of which Kaden uses (with Tan and, unexpectedly, Triste) to reach the fanatical Ishien, in order to learn what they know of his immortal enemies. Valyn's Wing flees to the nomads' Steppe, where they suffer many trials and tribulations before allying with the treacherous Urghul leader. And princess Adare flees the capital, seeking an army to take back the empire from General Ran il Tornja, the regent who was also her lover.

There's a lot happening here, culminating in an Alamo like defense of a strategic tiny logging town by Valyn's Wing. Kaden takes a surprising stand regarding his inheritance. Valyn and Adare finally meet again in a battle zone, but not in harmony. And we learn Triste's secret by the cliffhanger of an ending. This new saga ranks with the best of the genre and I very much look forward to what comes next.

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