Michael Johnston brings you the first in a new epic fantasy series inspired by ancient Egyptian history and King Lear.
The ruling family of the Soleri Empire has been in power longer than even the calendars that stretch back 2,826 years. Those records tell a history of conquest and domination by a people descended from gods, older than anything in the known world. No living person has seen them for centuries, yet their grip on their four subjugate kingdoms remains tighter than ever.
On the day of the annual eclipse, the Harkan king, Arko-Hark Wadi, sets off on a hunt and shirks his duty rather than bow to the emperor. Ren, his son and heir, is a prisoner in the capital, while his daughters struggle against their own chains. Merit, the eldest, has found a way to stand against imperial law and marry the man she desires, but needs her sister’s help, and Kepi has her own ideas.
Meanwhile, Sarra Amunet, Mother Priestess of the sun god’s cult, holds the keys to the end of an empire and a past betrayal that could shatter her family.
Detailed and historical, vast in scope and intricate in conception, Soleri bristles with primal magic and unexpected violence. It is a world of ancient and elaborate rites, of unseen power and kingdoms ravaged by war, where victory comes with a price, and every truth conceals a deeper secret.
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The political is personal in this elaborate opening segment of a high fantasy series that entwines family quarrels with imperial ambitions. An enormous empire controls its subject kingdoms through the ancient practice of hostage taking. King Arko Hark-Wadi, spared being a hostage in his youth, is given back his son but must surrender himself to the imperial court, a virtual death sentence. His daughters quarrel over a hastily arranged marriage to a usurper, uniting their subject kingdoms but splitting their romantic hopes. Their mother, now the chief priestess of the imperial sun god, schemes to become first minister for the unseen emperor and must play off the ambitious top general against her estranged husband, all while trying to discover why the sacred grain crop is failing. Johnston (Golden) relies on history and myth (a god named Mithra-Sol, an emperor named Tolemy, five sacred days at the end of the year) to ground his work, but the uneasy mix of ancient practices of marriage and modern sensibilities toward love muddy the characters' motivations and make reader loyalties uncertain.