Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for providing me with an ARC in exchange of honest review.
My name is Wen Alder. My name is Foolish Cur.
All my life, I have been torn between two legacies: that of my father, whose roots trace back to the right hand of the Emperor. That of my mother’s family, who reject the oppressive Empire and embrace the resistance.
I can choose between them – between protecting my family, or protecting my people – or I can search out a better path . . . a magical path, filled with secrets, unbound by Empire or resistance, which could shake my world to its very foundation.
But my search for freedom will entangle me in a war between the gods themselves . . .
“The phenomenal magic system, world-building, characters and prose makes this one of the most original fantasies I’ve read this year.”
“Stories, it seems, always survive”
‘The Hand of the Sun King’ by J.T. Greathouse is the first installment in The Pact and the Pattern trilogy. This novel first caught my eye when I saw Petrik rave about it on Goodreads. I read the synopsis and immediately added it to my TBR because I was so intrigued. Next thing, I see this book up in NetGalley for request and for obvious reasons I couldn’t stop myself from requesting the ARC and Voila I get approved !
Now, from the very start we see our main character Wen Alder being pulled in two completely different and opposite directions. One is the path his father lays out for him that has to do with his ancestries that roots back to being right hand of the emperor and continuing the family legacy. And other is the Nayeni path to reject and rebel against the empire from his mothers side which his grandmother wants him to follow.
We see Wen Alder (Foolish Cur) learn both the Sienese and Nayeni culture and history since he was only a kid. He grows up learning that no matter what side he choses the magic that intrigues him so much is going to be bound and restricted. So, he decides to set off on a path of his own. A third path full of magic and secrets, that has nothing to do with the empire or the rebellion.
“It was the only thing in the world that I yearned to understand for its own sake, not because an authority had decided that I must learn it. Once I had mastered it, it would be mine, to do with as I would. Neither bound to my father’s dreams of a restored Wen family, nor my grandmother’s for a Nayen free of the Empire.“
This is a coming of age story with first persons POV throughout the book. I usually don’t like being too focused on only one character but some reason it perfectly worked with this book. We see a phenomenal character development. Where Wen Alder starts as an arrogant and narcissist kid, we see him grow into a man with much deeper sense of understanding of the world.
Following Wen Alder’s journey, we meet many other characters who help shape him as a character and who certainly add to his character development. Some of the important ones being – his parents, his grandmother – Broken Limb, his tutor Koro Ha, his best friend Oriole, his mentor Usher and most of all Atar.
‘Come, firecaller,’ Atar said and took me by the hand. ‘It is our turn to drink.’
And if you cannot already tell then let me tell you Atar was probably my favorite side character and not to mention that she shaped Wen Alder the most. And I also loved the whole of An-zabat scenes, it was definitely my favorite. The lush description, the bazaar and the dances ! An-zabat was magical and I definitely hope we get to see more of it in the second book. And I am not very sure but I think its Indian inspired? The way Greathouse has presented all these different cultures and the way they perfectly blend with each other is truly commendable.
This story also explores some very important themes such as Friendship, Loss, Grief, Colonialism, poverty, oppression, injustice, War, loyalty etc. And I have been personally dealing with loss and grief right now so this quote really stuck with me – “that all of life is but a temporary emergence from the great pattern of the world.”
Following the quote, I want to say that my favorite aspect of the book was definitely the prose ! J.T. Greathouse has done such a wonderful job with the writing. Its beautiful and descriptive and pulls you right in. That being said, I think this might be the best book I have read in terms of the prose this year. I highlighted the shit out of it.
“If the choice is between understanding some deeper truth or fighting for a chance to make good on all the harm I have done, then I choose to fight.”
And while ‘The Hand of the Sun King’ is not necessarily the most action packed book, whatever actions scenes it had was brimming with intensity and perfectly executed. And I also loved the little reveals and twists we get as the story progresses. And that moment when the name of the book makes perfect sense? Mind Blown.
‘The Hand of the Sun King’ by J.T. Greathouse is a brilliant mix of classic and modern fantasy with beautiful prose and great underlying themes. It is honest and authentic. I am definitely looking forward to its sequel.
Thank you for reading !