the book cover for Empire of Exiles by Erin M. Evans
  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 448 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: November 8th 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Murder, death, kidnapping
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


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, when Quill, an apprentice scribe, arrives in the capital city, he believes he’s on a simple errand for another pompous noble: fetch ancient artifacts from the magical Imperial Archives. He’s always found his apprenticeship to be dull work. But these aren’t just any artifacts — these are the instruments of revolution, the banners under which the Duke lead 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.

Since Quill is the only reliable witness to the murder, and no one in power believes 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 for good. 

Empire of Exiles is one of the most wildly original fantasy books I’ve read in a long time. I had no idea what this book was really about when Orbit sent it my way, but wow. Take the typical fantasy novel, add a dash of locked-room, a dash of murder, and a splash a mystery and you’ve got this book.

So — a murder mystery set in something like a locked-room.

Is your interest piqued? How about I tempt you further?

Humans are, but one type of being in this world. There are beings with tentacles, beings with horns, and beings that I think can see in the dark? I’m not sure on that one, it wasn’t explained in detail. And lastly — there are beings called changelings who can turn into anyone. At all. At will. (See why the murder mystery is extra interesting in this one?) Basically — the world of Empire of Exiles is wildly diverse, and the beings included are so very different to what I’m used to in my fantasy books. It’s so refreshing to have some different types of beings than the usual elves, dwarves, orcs.

The setting itself is fascinating, and I really, really wish we had seen more of it. We really only see one corner of one city, and that’s it. Everything we see is set inside a massive salt wall and no one is allowed to go outside it. The wall was put up long ago to magically to protect everyone from the changelings. The changelings were taking over, and causing havoc, and so the wall was built to keep them out, forever.

And the magic system? Talk about another absolutely unique point to this book. Those who have magic are usually called ‘specialists’ and they specialize in one particular thing — some seen directly on page are bronze, glass, ink, or bone. Their abilities wax and wane throughout the year, and at certain times they are in danger of ‘spiralling’ — when their power goes extremely out of their control and they attempt to turn into whatever their medium is. It’s dangerous, and the author does a fantastic job of showing how this feels.

The characters are another great piece to this amazing puzzle, but I really don’t want to spoil too much about them for anyone so I’m going to sum them up very quickly: Quill – naïve boy who wants to help, Amadea – extreme mom friend, Yinii – precious cinnamon roll who I would protect with my life, Richa – a ‘detective’ type with actual morals. There are others, but these have the most page time, and they all are so fantastically well done.

It took me a tiny bit to sink into the book — you have to really follow what Evans sets up carefully — but once you’re there, you’re there. I loved this, and I can’t wait to see where Evans goes in the next one.

EMPIRE OF EXILES comes out November 8th 2022.

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