Negative Thoughts: The Last Mortal Bond
Author: Brian Staveley
The Last Mortal Bond is the final book in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy. It is also the worst book in the series. Something was niggling at me when I started reading it and it didn’t take me long to figure out that my main problem with The Last Mortal Bond was the female characters in general and Adare specifically. The story makes it seem as though there can’t be a strong female character without having them be complete assholes and it tries so very hard to have the reader side with and relate with one of the villains.
The only major female character that wasn’t a complete ass in this series is an assassin priest devoted to the lord of death. When your only positive female character kills people as a religion your story telling is not going to have the desired effect. There was just a procession of women who, while immensely capable, couldn’t help but be complete and utter assholes. It’s tempting to write these personalities off as incidental, as though the author wasn’t quite sure how to portray strong female characters but the inclusion of the one female character who is both skilled and not an asshole makes it clear that for whatever reason these character flaws were intentional.
Adare is the biggest asshole of the bunch. As much as the story would like you to cheer for her she is both unlikable and incompetent. I place her on the side of the villains since she’s been trying to take the throne almost since the emperor’s death and even sides with the emperor’s murderer. She never acknowledges her brother as the rightful heir and does nothing to ascertain the condition of either of her brothers once it’s learned that they are missing. Adare’s story arc is a long list of hubris, mistakes and miscalculations. So much so that her chief adviser spends the majority of her lines telling Adare what an idiot she is. Like any good despot, rather than take the criticism and improve, Adare blames everyone else for her failures. Luckily, through several instances of the good ‘ole deus ex machina, everything works out.
I had high hopes for this series. The First book was fantastic. Book two was pretty dang good. The Last Mortal Bond was the lead weights you stuff into the pockets of shipwreck survivors as they’re trying to out-swim the sharks, interesting to see what happens but pretty messed up. The action is pretty good and the greater background story was genuinely interesting. Too bad it was all overshadowed by a bunch of assholes. Whenever the story would settle into a good rhythm it would get derailed by the story arcs of some genuinely detestable characters.