cover image Soleri


Michael Johnston. Tor, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8648-9

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. Agent: Richard Abate, 3 Arts Entertainment. (June)