The Hands of the Emperor
December 25, 2022 3:11 AM - Subscribe

Cliopher Mdang is the personal secretary of the Last Emperor of Astandalas, the Lord of Rising Stars, the Lord Magus of Zunidh, the Sun-on-Earth, the god. He has spent more time with the Emperor of Astandalas than any other person. He has never once touched his lord. He has never called him by name. He has never initiated a conversation. One day Cliopher invites the Sun-on-Earth home to the proverbially remote Vangavaye-ve for a holiday.
posted by Literaryhero (8 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Found this throughyasaman's comment in another thread.

It is fantastic.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:13 AM on December 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

I love this book SO MUCH. I've written about it here before and I stand by my description of it as, "A fantasy wish fulfillment escapist novel for project managers."

I first read it back in June of last year and have re-read it twice since then. It's so stacked with powerful emotional payoffs that I cry at least a couple of times every time I read it (and not always at the same parts).
posted by merriment at 1:41 PM on December 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

I’ve just purchased this on Kindle based on comments here, and I’m really looking forward to reading it!
posted by damsel with a dulcimer at 9:21 AM on December 27, 2022

Aww, yay, glad you enjoyed it! The sequel At the Feet of the Sun came out earlier this month, so it's a great time to start with the series! (Though I would recommend a reading order of Hands of the Emperor, Petty Treasons, The Return of Fitzroy Angursell, The Redoubtable Pali Avramapul, and then At the Feet of the Sun. You can go straight to At the Feet of the Sun, but I think the other books/novellas offer some valuable and fun context about His Radiancy.)

Objectively, I can recognize that these books are slightly bloated and a smidge too self-indulgent; a ruthless editor would, I think, have cause to do some paring back. Subjectively, I do not care at all. I love spending time with these characters, in this world, and I love that the setting here is deliberately after all the most dramatic world-ending and world-saving stuff, and instead focuses on the nitty-gritty of running the world and healing. If you've ever thought, "okay, but how does the government function" about any of those high fantasy epics that end after Our Hero has saved the day, this series is for you. But on top of that, it's also a book that's reckoning with the personal costs of empire, and with reclaiming one's heritage, in the case of Cliopher, and with reclaiming one's personhood in the case of His Radiancy. And of course, it's also about the Power of Love and Friendship, in some very satisfying ways.

I'm currently rereading this one after reading At the Feet of the Sun, and let me tell you, this book seriously rewards rereading. So many character insights and emotional beats that land entirely differently! So much more awareness of the ways in which Cliopher is an unreliable narrator!
posted by yasaman at 10:24 AM on December 27, 2022 [4 favorites]

Love, love, love this book. I first read it in December 2021, re-read it mid-year then read it again recently after reading At the Feet of the Sun (which I'm currently re-reading).

Some books and book series become part of my mental landscape because they have so much emotional resonance for me; this is one of them. They're pure wish fulfilment in many ways - what if I could make the world better? what if I could make my family understand me? what if I had a close group of friends who unconditionally loved me? - which could have been written just for me.
posted by aussie_powerlifter at 6:44 PM on December 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

This post should have a tag for VictoriaGoddard.

I finished this book on Dec 31st after finding it through that same comment. I'm now working on The Return of Fitzroy Angursell.
posted by fings at 8:25 AM on January 2

This post should have a tag for VictoriaGoddard.

Ask and ye shall receive.
posted by Literaryhero at 8:41 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]

Just finished it and perhaps it's having worked for "what if this white paper could change the world" types, but I didn't get the wish fulfillment at all. Certainly there were other people in the world other than Cliopher, his enormous family, and the straw racists and kooks that Cliopher rants at for three pages and then everybody claps? And there's never anyone in Cliopher's huge family who is in conflict with Cliopher's political goals or beliefs and isn't a completely unattractive, petit bourgeois kook or bully. No charming smugglers, no young radicals with sympathetic if infeasible beliefs, not even a shoplifting aunty? For that matter, nobody is asking Cliopher for cash or favors? Man's whole family is made up of charming, independently well off people whose single, shared flaw is that they're not sufficiently interested in his work life. What are you complaining about, Cliopher? You are playing on easy mode!

I suppose it's nice to have a wish fulfillment fantasy where the protagonist isn't a 15 year old with violet eyes and raven locks, but really. It's not any more dignified when it's a middle aged man instead of a young girl. I did like the concept of the Emperor and the literal physical loneliness of power, though.
posted by kingdead at 6:23 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

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