The Hand of the Sun King by J.T. Greathouse is the first book in the Pact and Pattern series. The novel follows the character of Wen Adler aka Foolish Cur. Wen has been born to a family on both sides of the fence. His father is is a loyalist of the empire, whereas his mother’s lineage are known to have rebelled against the empire. This conflicting lineage causes all sorts of confusion for Alder who must decide where his loyalties lie and where they end. Rather than follow both these paths, Wen decides to create a third path and in turn form his own legacy.
The Hand of the Sun King was a superb novel that exceeded my expectations. I knew there was a lot of praise for this novel already but I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. After reading the novel, I truly understand why people were mesmerized by it. It’s a coming of age fantasy story that explores someone who is under so much pressure to conform to two legacies. Wen’s father who is Sienese is very much loyal to the emperor and and wishes to see him become part of the customs of the emperor by becoming the Hand of the Emperor. However, Wen’s grandmother wishes to see Wen stick to his roots of being Nayen. Whilst also studying to become Hand of the Emperor, Wen’s grandmother teaches him the ways of the Nayen people, it’s culture, roots, swordplay, folklore, and magic.
I found Wen Alder/Foolish Cur to be a really interesting character. He’s an ambitious and driven person who definitely enjoys seeking out knowledge. However, sometimes his intrigue gets him into trouble, especially when it comes to learning about magic. His ambition on many occasions was his downfall as he would get frustrated at not being able to seek certain knowledge which would then get him into trouble when he tries to seek out that knowledge himself. At the beginning Wen is very naive, ignorant, and stubborn. But when he slowly begins to see the full impact the Sianese empire has had on the world his outlook on life changes drastically.
There are I would say three key people who help him grow and where in turn great side characters. Firstly, there’s his tutor Koro Han who helps in tutoring him to become a Hand of the Emperor. Then you have Broken Limb his grandmother and Hissing Cat who teachehim the way of the Nayen people and their history. Thirdly, his friendship with Oriele was incredibly heartwarming as at first they’re both total opposites but slowly grow on each other. Finally, Atar who he meets in An Zabat opens his eyes more clearly to how badly the empire treat Nayen people. All of the people Wen meets help him grow in different ways.
What I also loved about the novel was the constant tension of Wen having to take sides. He takes many risks to prove himself to both the emperor and the rebellion. It made for great reading because just when you thought the empire had caught what he was up to he somehow managed to worm his way out of it 😂. I guess my favourite part and where I feel Wen grows a lot is when he travels to An-Zabat and sees the true extent of the empires harshness. It’s a poverty stricken area that are struggling immensely. As head of trade, Wen is able to make in his eyes many changes to help the people. But we soon find out that much of the investment is trickling down to settlers and traders who are of Sienese descent. In the process of this discovery he forms a close bond with Atar who teaches him the ways of the wind and the harsh reality of what her people are going through.
One final point I’d like to make would be on the magic system. Essentially, the magic system is based on an individuals ability to manipulate the elements through the patterns of the world. It sounds complicated but I kind of understand how the magic system works. I think I may need to read it again to completely understand the magic system.
Overall, I really loved this novel and I am so excited to continue this series. J.T Greathouse is a stupendous writer who has delivered a fantasy novel full of heart and soul. The East Asian influence was wonderfully done and I can’t wait to come back to the world Greathouse has created 😊.
Thank you Will and Gollalancz for sending me a copy! I really appreciate you guys 🙌🏼