Book Review: Seven Deaths of an Empire by G.R. Matthews

The Emperor is dead. Long live the Empire.

General Bordan has a lifetime of duty and sacrifice behind him in the service of the Empire. But with rebellion brewing in the countryside, and assassins, thieves and politicians vying for power in the city, it is all Bordan can do to protect the heir to the throne.

Apprentice Magician Kyron is assigned to the late Emperor’s honour guard escorting his body on the long road back to the capital. Mistrusted and feared by his own people, even a magician’s power may fail when enemies emerge from the forests, for whoever is in control of the Emperor’s body, controls the succession.

Seven lives and seven deaths to seal the fate of the Empire.

I was super excited to receive an advance copy of this satisfyingly chunky, old school fantasy novel. It even has a map! A well crafted, epic, swords and sorcery story, I loved it. It had loads of the fantasy tropes I adore, travel, a quest, a magical object, coming of age (in this case more maturing in capability I suppose), sword fights and a great magic system that was simple enough to follow but consistent with its own rules.

The story is told in a switching of two points of view. The General and The Magician – Bordan and Kyron respectively, literally taking us between the Sword and the Sorcery. The two points of view compliment each other well and help to build the whole picture of what is going on. I became very fond of both of them although they were very different.

General Bordan is old, heading towards the end of his career but still serving the Emperor, the Imperial family and the Empire with a strong sense of service and duty that has under pinned his life and shaped the man he is. A kind but strong man who is well respected and loved by the soldiers he commands he was easy to like.

Magician Kyron is still an apprentice and has much to learn – both about magic and the way of the world. When we first meet him his world view is very black and white although his Master Padarn and Emlyn a guide from the forest they travel through do their best to expand his horizons. Despite this, Kyron never falls into the trap of being annoying. Instead his naivety is understandable and he does listen to those around him (mostly) even if he sometimes struggles. He’s not perfect but he’s very human and I’m definitely fond of him as a character.

Our other supporting cast were strong too – the Imperial family, who weren’t always very likeable but were well written. Master Vedrix the bumbling head of Magicians, High Priest Godewyn who had risen to his position despite starting as a soldier rather than a priest, Cohort Borus a soldier marching with the army who’s a solid, dependable man. They all had their parts to play.

The battle scenes are well described with just the right amount of detail, I was reminded of the fight scenes in Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series.

At the start of each chapter is a short paragraph, telling us the history of an unidentified person, I really liked this, its not something I’ve seen before – almost like weaving a prologue through the story, it added a clever element to the book (although it took me an embarrassingly long time to work out who was being talked about.

Highly recommended for fantasy readers. Although there is clearly a lot more story to be told here Seven Deaths would also work as a stand alone (although I certainly hope we will get further instalments.

With thanks to Rebellion Publishing for sending me an advance copy in exchange for honest review.

Seven deaths of and Empire is available 24 June 2021 or on pre-order now.

If you like the sound of this one you can pre-order from Broken Binding bookstore here and use affiliate code for MUGFULL1232 for 5% off (I will also receive 5%)