"Breaking an Empire" is a prequel novella in author James Tallett's "The Four Part Land" fantasy series. The tale revolves around a group of seasoned war veterans who are once again brought together to quell and uprising in the Southern city of Niam Liad. As the group of warriors and their army, named "Glannhaol Fflamboethi (Cleansing Flame)" by the Emperor, march southwards through rebelling cities, the group must face their own personal demons as well as enemy soldiers. As the army nears Niam Liad the ranks begin to thin, tensions mount and the soldiers begin to wonder if anyone will return home alive. Here are my thoughts on Breaking an Empire;
+ Gorgeous two page drawn map of the realms.
+ Plenty of action.
+ Some interesting characters. Llofruddiwr the assassin was my favorite.
+ Beautiful and intriguing cover art.
- Naming of people and places suffered from severe fantasy-itis. Examples include; Hymerodraeth Heula, Bhreac Veryan, Glanhaol Fflamboethi, Rhyfelwyr, Llofruddiur and Ymerawdwyr. I used to get grief from my players in our D&D campaign all the time for using similarly overly complicated names. While I thought the names often looked neat I realized that substituting Y's for every vowel was not always a good idea.
- Character depth, descriptions and back stories were severely lacking. In the beginning of the book you have no idea who's who when names are being mentioned. After a while you'll get hints of "this guy has a moustache" or "this guy is very large and wields an axe" or "this guy commands fire" and you can start matching them up with the characters on the cover. However, at the end I still couldn't tell you which was Taflen and which was Rhyfelwyr.
- Lacks anything really fantastical which is common in most fantasy. There are no creatures of any type and the only apparent magic was from fire/air mages who acted as support during the battles.
- Spelling and grammar errors were obvious and somewhat common. Examples include moral/morale, started/startled, them/then, quite/quiet, joins/joints.
- May be too much action and not enough emotion for some readers.
- Half of the book was a preview of the following novel, "Tarranau." Not necessarily a bad thing but I did feel a bit cheated on the story.
As a prequel "Breaking An Empire" does an admirable job of getting the reader interested enough to continue the main story continued in, "Tarranau." Overall, the story was decent but only a few of the characters had enough personality to keep me reading (Llofruddiwr, Rhocas and Locsyn primarily). The action was almost constant, sometimes to the point where I became bored (similar to when I saw Diehard 3!). Sadly, the story itself just didn't engage me enough to want to continue reading any further tales of "The Four Part Land." I'd recommend this book if you enjoy military fantasy by authors such as Paul Kearney, Glen Cook or Chris Evans, otherwise you may want to give it a skip.