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I Belong

Review: Soleri by Michael Johnston

Title: Soleri

Author: Michael Johnston

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Soleri (Book #1)

Publication Date: June 13, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 364 Pages

ISBN-10: 0765386488 (Tor/Macmillan)

ISBN-13: 978-0765386489 (Tor/Macmillan)

Reviewed by: Kristie


Michael Johnston brings you the first in a new epic fantasy series inspired by ancient Egyptian history and King Lear.

The ruling family of the Soleri Empire has been in power longer than even the calendars that stretch back 2,826 years. Those records tell a history of conquest and domination by a people descended from gods, older than anything in the known world. No living person has seen them for centuries, yet their grip on their four subjugate kingdoms remains tighter than ever.

On the day of the annual eclipse, the Harkan king, Arko-Hark Wadi, sets off on a hunt and shirks his duty rather than bow to the emperor. Ren, his son and heir, is a prisoner in the capital, while his daughters struggle against their own chains. Merit, the eldest, has found a way to stand against imperial law and marry the man she desires, but needs her sister’s help, and Kepi has her own ideas.

Meanwhile, Sarra Amunet, Mother Priestess of the sun god’s cult, holds the keys to the end of an empire and a past betrayal that could shatter her family.

Detailed and historical, vast in scope and intricate in conception, Soleri bristles with primal magic and unexpected violence. It is a world of ancient and elaborate rites, of unseen power and kingdoms ravaged by war, where victory comes with a price, and every truth conceals a deeper secret.

Quick & Dirty: High fantasy novel where five people’s lives are entwined with the future of the empire.

Opening Sentence: They used to be fishermen, but that night hunger made them thieves.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Soleri is the beginning of an epic high fantasy series that felt like an extraordinary cross of Ancient Egypt, Stargate and Game of Thrones. Although a case can be made that Ancient Egypt also shows up in Stargate while this novel has all that just minus the space travel. I didn’t really know what to expect going into this novel and for a beginning book, there is plenty going on and a huge cast of characters that are all tied together in a way that I won’t reveal for spoilers.

The Solerian Empire has been ruled over by an alien race for the last two thousand years. There have been many wars over the years because this is not a peaceful empire. The empire is split up between different ruling kingdoms and native areas that are constantly fighting. About two hundred years ago, the Tolemy decided they needed to take the children of the kingdoms and force them to grow up together at the Priory so they don’t grow up with their kingdom’s secrets, suspicions and plots to carry on when they gain the throne. This story is full of devious, secret plots and it kept me guessing from beginning to end. There is definitely much more to how this empire operates because each area has its own set of rules and traditions. There is one thing that is consistent, the solar eclipse that happens once a year and when that fails, all hell breaks out for the ruling empire.

The cast of characters is huge but the story really only follows five people who are all connected. There is a mysterious sixth POV that starts out the story and then is long forgotten in the story that these five people tell. King Arko Hark-Wadi is never one for the rules, he hates the Tolemy, and the First Ray of the Sun, but he also isn’t one for confrontation. He ignores all celebrations for the solar eclipse. In a way, I found Arko similar to Ned Stark, he is very loyal to his family but in the end, he is a depressed drunk who has been played by more people than he’s realized. Arko is someone I really wanted to care for but I think I spent most of the time feeling sorry for him instead. Arko’s son, Ren, has been released from the Priory in exchange for his father’s life because no one is released from the Priory without their father’s dying first. Ren is a thirteen-year-old boy who is forced to rule a kingdom he knows nothing about. Unlike most boys, Ren does get to meet his father briefly before Arko is sent to his death and gains some valuable advice. I believe Ren to be one of the heroes of this story. He is the one character that is really put through some terrible trials and he seems the most grounded of the characters, if not a bit immature but he is thirteen after all.

The ladies of this novel are a wee bit harder to handle. I kept thinking of both Sarra and Merit as Cersei type characters. These ladies are devious with their own plots to further both of their places in society. Sarra wants to be the First Ray of the Sun, the one who is in direct contact with the Tolemy (ruling alien) and Merit just wants her father’s kingdom. These ladies are very selfish. Then there is Kepi, she’s very Arya Stark, she’s learned to be a warrior through her own terrible past. She’s the pawn in a much larger plot, one that she knows is coming and there is nothing she can do about it. I really can’t wait to see where her story goes and I’m really hoping that Kepi and Ren get together and take everyone else out.

Soleri is a hugely intricate high fantasy story with such devious plot points and twists that I really did have no idea where the story was going. I may not like all the characters in this book but I am deeply interested to see where their stories go as this series goes on. If you are a fan of fantasy novels with intricate, tangled plots and a world with a future as bleak as its landscape then you should definitely give this story a try.

Notable Scene:

When he finished, Arko looked up at the boy and asked, “What about me? Do you remember anything at all about your father?”

The boy shook his head.

“No. I suppose you wouldn’t. I suppose there isn’t much you’d care to remember, about any of us. . .” Arko dropped the scroll into the dust and picked up the reins of his horse. “It appears the emperor had made a trade. He has returned my heir so I must take your place, but not in the Priory. The emperor demands an audience with me.” He nodded at his son, his boy. Years had been stolen from them, and years would be stolen from them still.

Soleri Series:

1. Soleri

FTC Advisory: Tor/Macmillan provided me with a copy of Soleri. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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