This week on The Literary Horizon, we’re taking a look at even more fantasy… you know what? I’m going to start applying my reading rule to The Literary Horizon from now on- no two genres in a row! (Although I do have an awful lot of fantasy on the reading list…) But today, fantasy. We’re looking at two beautifully titled novels dealing with empire, especially those on the wrong side of the glass.
Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The city states of the Lowlands have lived in peace for decades, bastions of civilization, prosperity and sophistication, protected by treaties, trade and a belief in the reasonable nature of their neighbors.
But meanwhile, in far-off corners, the Wasp Empire has been devouring city after city with its highly trained armies, its machines, it killing Art . . . And now its hunger for conquest and war has become insatiable.
Only the aging Stenwold Maker, spymaster, artificer and statesman, can see that the long days of peace are over. It falls upon his shoulders to open the eyes of his people, before a black-and-gold tide sweeps down over the Lowlands and burns away everything in its path.
But first he must stop himself from becoming the Empire’s latest victim.
Like some books on my list, I’m unsure where I got the recommendation for Empire in Black and Gold–I want to say a review of the recent reissue from Publishers Weekly, but I honestly don’t know. But I have to admit, it’s the title that drew me in–it’s just so fantastic and evocative. I barely even realized it was about rebels until I started writing this post. But an aging spymaster against an Empire? Oh, and this summary doesn’t even mention that each race in this world has a totemic animal that gives them related powers. Hmm!
Robert at Fantasy Book Critic loved it, especially the unique races, great action, and how balanced it was. Graeme at Gaeme’s Fantasy Book Review also enjoyed it, but thought the pacing was a little off, especially in the resolution of certain storylines. I am all for unique races in fantasy, beyond the fairly traditional humans, elves, dwarves, and orcs that are standard fare, so I look forward to this.
Empire in Black and Gold was released on November 15, 2008.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.
With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate – and gods and mortals – are bound inseparably together.
A barbarian princess as an outsider in political intrigue? Why, hello. I ran across The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in Publishers Weekly, and it sounded wonderful there. And just like Empire in Black and Gold, it’s a wonderfully evocative title. See? I can be shallow for things other than book covers.
Aidan Moher at A Dribble of Ink praises the writing style, especially the rare trick of making a first person perspective the only way to properly tell the story–but the main villain is lacking, in his opinion. Jia at Dear Author enjoyed the writing style as well as the characters, although she felt that the resolution is a bit slapdash. It sounds definitely worth my time.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was published on February 25, 2010.