Even readers unfamiliar with Staveley’s earlier books will enjoy this lengthy, immersive fantasy ... The world of The Empire’s Ruin is unremittingly bleak, and while Staveley embraces the physical violence that’s all too common in this world, he focuses far more on the psychological impact of living in a crumbling society ... At times, this focus on introspection can make certain sections feel interminable. And while this feels like an intentional choice on Staveley’s part, to demonstrate each character’s narrow focus on their own struggles, it does hurt the book’s overall pacing. But by the end of The Empire’s Ruin, most readers will still be itching for more. Those looking for a thoughtful, dark fantasy with action and well-earned twists would do well to pick this one up.
Much development here is relatively small-scale for an epic fantasy this ambitious, with character introspection ultimately at the forefront; nonetheless, there’s plenty of action, and the setup for sequels promises plenty of epic struggle for the fate of the world.
[A] grim, disappointing epic fantasy ... Despite complex politics and conflicting cultures, the characters are simplistic and unmotivated, and their relationships to one another feel uninspired. Few surprises and little suspense along the way does nothing to make it easier to root for the protagonists ... This ambitious trio of adventures falls flat and lacks heart.