Book Review

Empire Of Exiles

Empire of Exiles

  • Author: Erin M. Evans
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publication Date: November 8, 2022
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Series: Books of the Usurper #1

Thank you to Orbit and Angela Man for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: murder, blood, suicide, violence, forced drugging

Magic, mystery, and revolution collide in this fantasy epic where an unlikely team of mages, scribes, and archivists must band together to unearth a conspiracy that might topple their empire.

Twenty-seven years ago, a duke with a grudge led a ruthless coup against the empire of Semilla, killing thousands. He failed. The duke was executed, a terrifyingly powerful sorcerer was imprisoned, and an unwilling princess disappeared.

The empire moved on.

Now Quill, an apprentice scribe, arrives in the capital city believing he’s on a simple errand for another pompous noble: fetch ancient artifacts form the magical Imperial Archives. He’s always found his apprenticeship to a lawman to be dull work. But these aren’t any artifacts—these are the instruments of revolution, the banners under which the duke led his coup.

Just as the artifacts are unearthed, the city is shaken by a brutal murder that seems to have been caused by a weapon not seen since the days of rebellion. With Quill being the main witness to the murder, and no one in power believing his story, he must join with a young mage, a seasoned archivist, and a disillusioned detective to find the truth of the attack. And what they uncover will be the key to saving the empire—or destroying it.

Often, whenever I start something brand new to me, I experience a brief moment of regret, where I question the wisdom of my decision in embarking on this new venture. It’s happened to me with jobs, hobbies, physical activities, and yes, even fantasy books. I think it occurs when I get overwhelmed with adapting to an entirely new system of thinking, and it’s common with fantasy books when I have to get used to a brand new world, involving characters, world-building, and a magic system, at times all at once. 

This book throws basically all of the characters involved in the story at the reader within the first few chapters. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but I trusted the process and believed that it would pay off. And I’m glad that I didn’t give up, because it absolutely did. It also helped that there’s a list of all of the characters at the start of the book, which helped me keep track of who was who until I was able to keep them organized in my head (which didn’t take long). The author is able to create a cast of characters that is diverse and easy to distinguish from one another, once I got used to them. 

The world-building in this book is absolutely outstanding. Evans creates a vast world, with different regions that have people with different physical appearances, religious beliefs, languages, and talents, and the areas offer different resources to the empire. However, they’re all working together to support the empire. In addition, the magic system was fascinating, and centered around specific individuals who have talents pertaining to certain elements, such as ink, bone, glass, or metals. 

I especially loved that the main characters, or heroes, in this book, were the nerdy types—the people who work as scribes, or archivists in the Imperial Archives. It made them feel more relatable than the typical warrior-type heroes, and I enjoyed their commitment to their work, as well as the way their morals and values pushed them towards solving this mystery that they kind of got sucked into. There’s a strong found family trope in this story, especially since the main characters leave their families to work in the archives, and in the case of one of the characters, they don’t have any family. The relationships between the characters made this story what it was, and pushed it from potentially great to amazing.

While it starts out a bit slowly, the pace quickly picks up and there’s so much tension throughout the story. The murder gets the ball rolling, and it felt like each chapter revealed more questions that I couldn’t wait to find answers for. Even the answers that were revealed left me hanging on every word, and there were so many plot twists in this taut and incredible story. I finished the story and was left breathless, waiting for the next book in this series.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 18

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