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 . . .
Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of The Hand of the Sun King (Pact and Pattern #1) for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.
The Hand of the Sun King is a staggering fantasy debut with poetic prose and near flawless characterization. Wen Alder, aka Foolish Cur, is another noteworthy protagonist to add to the ones I have had the company of journeying with this year, alongside Kinch Na Shannack, Alwyn Scribe, and Aram Raythe. Greathouse will become a household name before too long, and I can only imagine will make plenty of 2021 ‘Best of’ lists.
I can’t really start the meat of this review without mentioning the cover. What I love so much about it is that as you journey further into the novel, the cover starts making more and more of an impact on you as a reader. You pick out details here and there from the story that just fit. So, Patrick Knowles, massive kudos on the perfect cover art.
So, let’s get into the writing.
This does not read like a debut novel whatsoever. I was swept away by Greathouse’s prose and his ability to have me completely enamored with his protagonist. The journey we take with Alder throughout the novel is one rife with obstacles, disappointments, trials, tribulations, tiny arrays of hope, and a ton of injustice; and you as the reader are there with him through every. single. step. You’ll applaud when he succeeds, scratch your head with multiple decisions he makes, and feel for him as he attempts to strike a balance between what is right, wrong, and easy.
The toughest part about his journey is choosing what path he will take: the one forged by his father or the one brought to light by his mother’s heritage. It is almost like making a choice between your mother and your father. Which one do you want to go with, and which will you leave behind? Best hope the old “the grass is always greener” adage doesn’t come back to bite you, leading your mind to drown in chaos.
While the world-building takes a bit of a backseat to the character-driven narrative, it is still something to behold. There is plenty of history spilled out and over throughout the many page turns and the descriptive terms the author employs really bring the reader into the setting with ease. The magic system itself is very intriguing, especially with its limitations, and still doesn’t feel fully fleshed out. I believe I could watch as Alder tries, fails, and learns about his craft long into the night.
The Hand of the Sun King will be one of my top reads in 2021, there is no doubt. It is a coming-of-age fantasy story with hope, friendship, loss, grief, magic, and a focus on the choices we make alongside the repercussions that come with them. It is a brilliant novel, and one that I liken to The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. One that I did not want to end, and can only imagine where it is headed next.
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