The Hands of the Emperor Review

The Hands of the Emperor by Victoria Goddard is the first book of two in her Lays of the Hearth-Fire series. This is a series about restricted friendship, familial love, heritage, politics and beyond. Make no mistake, a lot of commitment is required with the book clocking in at almost 1000 pages. I’m surprised myself how I managed to complete the book as I found many lacking parts and improvements that personally I thought would have contributed to a much more well-rounded story.

“ I have seen the door of freedom. There is no one who can prevent me from taking it, though I must lose everything to open it.”

The Last Emperor of Astandalas

The Hands of the Emperor reminded me a lot of The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. We follow Cliopher Mdang who is for all intents and purposes the second in charge of the government and only second to the emperor himself. With Cliopher being from what many would consider a “backwater” island, he constantly has to deal with the prejudices, stereotypes and many other injustices from other courtiers in the government while still needing to put on a straight face. You see, Cliopher is a professional who focuses solely on his work on improving the government and making sure that the rules and laws he drafts up benefits the entire citizens of Zunidh and not just the upper aristocrats. He must also do this all while fighting internally with himself that his family have failed to yet recognize his worth and ascendancy to the highest rank of the government.

“ The trouble with pretending to have no emotions beyond a vague benevolence is that after a while you start to believe your lies. But that I do not display my emotions does not mean I do not have them.”

The Last Emperor of Astandalas

In a way, I really feel for Cliopher. His character strikes too close to home for comfort. I recognize the internal struggle he goes through with wanting and craving that recognition from family members and friends, but not wanting to be boastful or bringing up the topic of one’s own accomplishments. However, I don’t think it should have taken this many pages of a book to make this point across. This is a simple matter of miscommunication and a flaw in Cliopher’s own family members and friends to have failed to notice his role and rank in the government. If the lord emperor one day personally visits your household, you would have thought that many of them would have caught on, but the story on this struggle for Cliopher just drags out to my irritation.

Another failure is due to how the story just runs out of steam and plot lines the further it progresses. While we all know that Cliopher is always hard at work running the government, it’s really only because there seems to be a lot of, well, work to be done. There isn’t any schemes or political treachery from the dozens and hundreds of other courtiers in the government to overthrow Cliopher or plots to steer the emperor away from him. The most tense exchanges seem to be when others have offended Cliopher by calling him a barbarian or insulting his people. Usually, his high rank and him being literally the “hands of the emperor” allows him to get the better of any confrontations he encounters at court. Basically, there really isn’t any real threat to Cliopher’s position and rank throughout the story to shake things up.

The Palace was a temple and his Radiancy was its god.

Cliopher Mdang

To sum things up, while I’ve enjoyed reading The Hands of the Emperor and was exciting to see how things would turn out, I didn’t think it should have been this long of a book. While that is obviously a matter of opinion, it wouldn’t have been as bad if certain other elements were thrown in. Reading that the emperor is finally going to free himself by going on an adventure is great, but of course, we don’t get to witness that throughout this 1000-page book. You’ll have to stay tuned and purchase the next book to find out. Meanwhile, here are 800 pages of filler to go through. I’ve decided I will not be going through with the second book in this series, which looks to be even longer than this one! I also see that the author has written other short stories about support characters in this world, but I don’t find any of them interesting enough to go through it.


you may also like:

Leave a Reply

Discover more from AnotherBookReview

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading