Excerpt: THE HAND OF THE SUN KING by J.T. Greathouse (Gollancz/JABberwocky)

GreathouseJT-P&P1-HandOfTheSunKingToday, we have an excerpt from The Hand of the Sun KingJ. T. Greathouse‘s debut fantasy novel, and the first in the Pact & Pattern series. Pitched as perfect for fans of Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson and R. F. Kuang, it’s certainly caught my attention. Here’s the official synopsis for the novel:

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…

And now, on with the excerpt…!


Grandmother woke me in the dead of night and told me to keep silent. She led me through the forest by half-forgotten paths. Paths the Sienese soldiers would not know. Sticks snapped beneath my sandalled feet and the wet roughness of the undergrowth brushed my calves. The cries of owls and foxes wafted through the cool, dark air. The stark light of the moon and stars cut through a cloudless sky and made the night feel all the colder. Sleepy confusion gave way to fear.

Did my mother know that Grandmother had taken me? And where? I wanted to ask these things, yet I dared not. An air of mystery clung to my grandmother, this old woman who lived beneath our roof yet felt like a creature out of shadowed myth.

Several nights earlier I had lain awake, swaddled in silk and cotton, listening to my grandmother argue with my mother on the other side of an oiled paper wall. My father had left on business that morning, and my grandmother’s presence grew to fill the space he had vacated. She spoke more openly against the Sienese, and in turn my mother, married to a Sienese man, argued against her generalisations and blanket hatred.

It did not occur to me then to wonder why my grandmother chose to live with us, beneath a Sienese roof, with a daughter she despised and a son-in-law she hated. But I was only a small boy. I knew little of Sien and nothing of my grandmother’s people, nor their gods, and never imagined that I would become a weapon in the long and bitter war between them.

‘You and your brother were named at six years old, yet your son is eight and nameless,’ my grandmother said, her voice muted by the paper wall.

‘It was not a crime when we were named,’ my mother said.

‘There was no danger to it then.’

Their conversation made little sense to me. I had a name, Wen Alder, given to me by my father in accordance with the naming traditions of his clan and a proper continuity from his own name, Wen Rosewood. Why did I need another?

‘If not now, then never,’ my grandmother snapped. ‘And then the only path left to him will be service to the conquerors. Would you rather he become some imperial bureaucrat, his mind turned to calculating the interest owed by starving villagers on taxes they will never be able to pay? That is the path your husband has set him on.’

There was a sob in my mother’s voice. ‘You will not have my son for your war.’

‘Is it better to make him an enemy of the gods? An enemy of his own family?’

Crickets filled the silence between them. I was fully awake now, excited by whispered talk of gods and war. The only god I knew was the Sienese emperor, whose rituals I had begun to study with my tutor the previous year. I had seen demonstrations of his power at the New Year festivals, when Sienese sorcerers – Hands of the emperor – hurled spheres of iridescent flame to dance among the stars. I worshipped the emperor and venerated the sages alongside my father, as he had done with his father, and so on unto the origin of our clan in the misty depths of history. Of what gods did my grandmother speak?


J. T. Greathouse’s The Hand of the Sun King is out now, published by Gollancz in the UK and JABberwocky in North America.

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