I received this book for free from The Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
by Daniel Polansky
Series: The Empty Thrones #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 26th February 2015
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Source: The Publisher
Amazon UK • Amazon US •
They enslaved humanity three thousand years ago. Tall, strong, perfect, superhuman and near immortal they rule from their glittering palaces in the eternal city in the centre of the world. They are called Those Above by their subjects. They enforce their will with fire and sword.
Twenty five years ago mankind mustered an army and rose up against them, only to be slaughtered in a terrible battle. Hope died that day, but hatred survived. Whispers of another revolt are beginning to stir in the hearts of the oppressed: a woman, widowed in the war, who has dedicated her life to revenge; the general, the only man to ever defeat one of Those Above in single combat, summoned forth to raise a new legion; and a boy killer who rises from the gutter to lead an uprising in the capital.
The story follows four unique individuals, Bas, Eudokia, Thistle and Calla in a world in which humanity has been enslaved by a superhuman race called “Those Above”. There is still much tension and many people want vengeance for what happened in the past and what is still happening in the land.
The story mainly takes place in two very different environments: the first is Aeleria, a human city under the influence of “Those Above”, however far enough away to be able to govern themselves. They merely have a Sentinel that ensures the will of her people is met in the region to the west, which includes Aeleria as well as the surrounding cities.
The second is know as The Roost, this is where the majority of Those Above abide. Here there are 5 rungs in which people live, Those Above and their servants are on the first rung, highest towards the sky. As you move down the rungs, the buildings and people become less elaborate, the fifth rung is filled with poverty and filth.
Bas, Eudokia, Thistle and Calla all come from very different backgrounds which allows you to experience the world in full. Bas is a great general leading a Legion to battle against Aeleria’s enemies, in order to expand and become a great empire. He fought in the last great battle against Those Above and faced a solo duel against one of their kind, he is the only known man to walk away from such a duel. His trophy, his sword, forged at the top of The Roost boasts a shining red blade and can cut through flesh and bones like butter.
Eudokia was widowed in the war, her beloved husband slayed by Those Above. In the years since she has been amassing power and now the control of Aeleria is at her fingertips. However she is the puppet master and therefore very well at keeping her secrets. She has a carefully constructed plan that she has worked years to fulfil and the time will soon be ready.
Thistle is a youth living in the 5th rung at The Roost, he doesn’t do much apart from hang around with his friends and drink, they also like to go head to head with rival gangs to let out some anger. There is not much he can currently do to remedy his situation. However events are about the unfold that will change his life forever, and then he will have much to do.
Lastly we have Calla, she is the top servant to one of Those Above known as The Aubade, her family have served him for many generations and she is treated extremely well. She basically acts as his personal assistant and ensures all the other servants are doing their jobs and keeps his estate running smoothly.
I found Those Above hard to get into, the first half of the book is really just doing a whole lot of world building, however it didn’t really help me picture the world as nothing was described in relation to anything else. The four perspectives also seemed random and didn’t connect also as each story was separate, each character had friends and accquinataces that you were introduced to and it was all a bit overwhelming. However i carried through as the second half of the book really picked up for me, everything started clicking together and the puzzle was finally unravelled to show a beautifully built and thought out world. I’ve heard that the story is going to be part of a duology and my current thoughts are that i wish this story had been a standalone and a prologue book about each of the characters pasts and more about the world could have been published later for those that were interested. My main issue was that nothing really happens in this book, it just sets it up for the next.
That being said, once i did get into the story i really enjoyed reading all about the characters are what was happening in each of their lives. Eudokia and Calla were by far my favourites, Eudokia due to her intelligence and manipulation of everyone around her and the way in which she played the game. Calla gave a great insight into the viewpoint of Those Above and how they view the humans, rather than the other way around. She was also intelligent and i really enjoyed learning more about The Aubade. He was one of my favourite secondary characters, and that’s saying a lot because there were so many.
I also really enjoyed when some of the characters paths crossed, evenly if it was just fleetingly as the event viewed from a different perspective gave a very different story as to what was happening. Especially when Calla and Thistle’s paths cross.
I have to say that the book definitely left me wanting more and i think i’m going to have to pick up the second story in order to see how everything plays out.
So, in conclusion, if you are struggling with the beginning of the book power through as the story you will get is definitely worth it.
Thanks for reading,