Editorial Review: Sons of Empire by Chandler McGrew
Sons of the Empire opens with a Master Assassin named Caltris completing an assassination, but in an uncharacteristic act, sparing the lives of a woman and her child. However, this novel doesn’t just follow the story of Caltris and the consequences of his actions, but also two other men.
One is Trastan Mage, son of High Magister Menzies Mage. Although Trastan grew up in the Mage Guild and longed to take on his father’s mantle as High Magister, he is forbidden from doing so by Menzies. Instead, his father sends him to the deserts of Kadan to learn the military arts. Lastly, there’s Finn Raymos, a school friend of Trastan, whose father was assassinated. Finn has ambitions to step up from cavalry lieutenant to Ministers of the Crown, which leads him to distant Kush. However, instead of glory, he finds himself held back by those in command, which forces him to take matters into his own hands.
Initially, the lives of Caltris, Trastan, and Finn appear to have very little in common, but as the story progresses it becomes clear that all three have important roles to play and that their fates are linked. After saving lives instead of taking them, Caltris finds himself embroiled in the affairs of the otherworldly Council of Five, who appear to have a hidden agenda of their own. Meanwhile, Trastan falls into forbidden love with one of the concubines of Destrin Randalle, the enigmatic man he was sent to train under. Unfortunately, the uneasy peace that Destrin has been maintaining in the region begins to fall apart and with war brewing on the horizon, the lives of everyone hang in the balance.
Sons of the Empire features a great combination of political intrigue, suspense, action, and drama. The different factions and desert setting will appeal to fans of classics such as Dune, but this novel also has plenty of original ideas. Seeing the tale unfold from the perspective of the different characters provides readers with a broader overview of events while also drawing them deeper into the story. Chandler McGrew also has a knack for writing riveting battle scenes and both Trastan and Finn are put through the wringer on more than one occasion. Since Caltris is an assassin his scenes are a bit more stealthy, but every bit as suspenseful.
In addition to the great characters Sons of Empire also features a great setting where steam and magic co-exist. It is a world where Technomagic exists, but remnants of their predecessors, the Altmages’s magic still remain. The combination of science fiction and fantasy also makes for interesting and unique elements. These include giant clockwork mechanism-powered transporters, known as Grinders, and battles fought between soldiers armed with lever-action rifles and mobile “devil guns” that could wipe out entire regiments before their horse soldiers could even get within rifle range.
Overall, Sons of the Empire is a great read and sets things up perfectly for an epic world-spanning series.