Plot: 4/5 Characters: 5/5 Writing: 3/5 Entertainment: 3/5 World Building: 4/5
“The Axe and the Throne” is a gritty thrill ride across a realm that puts the “Epic” in “Epic Fantasy.” Its characters are complex and compelling and the world building is thorough (even if it’s not the most original), but the way the story is told makes it hard to get invested in either of those elements.
Tallos travels north in search of his best friend’s reckless sons, braving the threat of the fearsome Galatai warriors that call the icy forests home. Galatai brothers, Titon and Decker, work together to plan a raid that will bring them glory and resources for their clans in the absence of their father, who has traveled south in search of a cure for their mother’s illness. Cassen, the “dutchess” of Adeltia, pulls the kingdom’s strings by employing lady servants to steal the secrets of high-ranking officials. Crella fights against a loveless marriage she never wanted and tries desperately to understand what’s going on with her son, the future king of Adeltia.
And those are just the major plot lines.
I should start out by saying that not I’m one for Epic Fantasy. No matter how much I’ve try, it just doesn’t hold my attention very well, so take this review with a grain of salt. I like books that are a bit more chill than this genre allows, so “The Axe and the Throne” had an uphill battle from the start.
The only thing that kept me engaged was the characters. These are some of the most complex people I’ve read in just about any genre. Ireman knows just how much of their interworking to show so that you understand their motivations—even if you don’t agree with the following actions—and how much to keep hidden so you want to see what they’ll do next. I’m also incredibly impressed that he managed to do that with so many characters, seeing as the cast is so big.
The world Ireman has built works well enough, but I wish it had a bit more originality to it. It’s well constructed and three-dimensional, but the only thing that makes it stand out is how dark and gritty it is. And with the booming success of “Game of Thrones,” even the violent, morbid aspects of the world didn’t shock me as much as I think Ireman wanted them to. The Galatai, translated as the people of the glacier, definitely help the world out since we get to focus on more than one culture and how these multiple cultures interact, but they’re only one aspect of a rather complicated, convoluted plot.
I liked the complexity of each individual character’s story arc, but the way it’s presented made them hard to keep straight. Not only does the book switch focus each chapter, but there were also quite a few flashbacks, which just made things even more confusing. As fascinating as the characters were, it was hard to invest in them or their dilemmas because as soon as something interesting happens, I was whisked away to another corner of the globe. For the first half of the book, when I should have been sinking in the world and getting to know everyone, I was constantly backtracking and reorienting myself, which got a little tiring.
That being said, I’m sure there’re people out there that would enjoy this book. If you’re a fan of “Game of Thrones” or Terry Brooks’ work, you’ll probably have a blast with “The Axe and the Throne.” If you’re like me and you like books that are a bit more on the straightforward and fun side of fantasy, you might want to keep browsing Amazon’s Kindle page.
As posted on tabbyafae.com on August 23, 2016.