Published: August 5, 2021
Publisher: JAB Books
Series: Pact and Pattern #1
Pages: 370 (Paperback)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an 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 . . .
I was offered an early copy of this book and once I looked at how crazy good the early ratings were I decided to give it a go. I have to say, The Hand of the Sun King is well deserving of the high praise it’s received thus far.
The story follows Wen Alder from a young age, where it quickly becomes apparent his household is divided. His mother is Nayeni, a group of people who were recently brought into the imperial fold, and while she accepts this her mother does not and holds to the Nayeni traditions. Alder’s grandmother teaches him of the Nayeni culture and teaches him of their magic, for she wishes to keep their culture alive and thus names Alder Foolish Cur, after the Nayeni style of naming. The boy with two names grows into a man too curious after the nature of magic and too blind of the empire’s machinations. The reader gets to follow him in his journey to taste of the unbound magic he so recklessly used as a child and will watch as he both triumphs and fails along the way.
The Hand of the Sun King was a brilliant read and had several moments that really tugged on the heartstrings – an unexpected bonus to a great story. Alder is a character who’s easy to love, though I found myself thinking “no, you idiot” on many occasions. It was a believable naivete, rather than true stupidity most of the time so ultimately I enjoyed it even as I cringed for his choices. Though Alder is the main character, there is no shortage of excellent side characters to keep things fresh. I particularly liked his friends Oriole and Atar who both made him a better, more thoughtful person.
This was a great book and I’m really glad I picked it up when the opportunity arose. I initially wasn’t going to, though my only reason was that I thought I wouldn’t like it much. I’m glad to find I was very wrong about that! If you’re looking for an emotionally moving Asian-inspired fantasy that lacks the darkness of the Poppy War but not the action this might be something you’d like. Also, the cover alone is deserving of some love – the longer you look at it, the more you notice!