With the sequel set to be released this month, I thought now would be a good time to share my reading experience of Soleri by Michael Johnston. I first read Soleri when it was first published in 2017 and I was intrigued to see what Michael Johnston had up his sleeve and what he could add to the ever evolving fantasy genre. What I got was a highly original story about politics, a royal family descended from the gods, betrayal, and a slow buildup to a smashing conclusion that left me wanting more. After 4 years of waiting, the sequel is reedy to be release and I encourage everyone to give this story a go.
What had me interested in this story from the beginning was that Soleri takes its influence from Ancient Egypt where the King is said to be a living god on earth. Soleri is similar in that regard, but instead of an emperor we have a ruling family. The Soleri Empire has been in power for close to 3,000 years when the ruling family conquered the known world and has ruled with an iron fist. No one has laid eyes upon the ruling family in centuries, but their power remains as strong as ever across the 4 kingdoms. As you can probably tell by the title, the religion and worship of Gods in this novel revolves around the sun and it plays a big part in the plot. You may be surprised to discover how much!
In Soleri, we follow 5 POV characters all told in the third person. It should be mentioned that 4 of the 5 characters are all from the same family. Arko Hark-Wadi is the king of Harkan where he rules with his two daughters: Merit and Kepi. When the time comes for Arko to declare his duty for the empire, he refuses to obey and is taken to the capital to face judgement. When Arko reaches the capital, nothing is what it seems and he is involved in a plot to shift the political power of the Soleri Empire. Merit is the eldest daughter of Arko and will do everything in her power to marry the man of her choice and not the one she is betrothed too. The problem is that she can’t accomplish this task alone and needs the help of her younger sister Kepi. Merit is a smart, cunning, and often times backstabbing in her endeavors and she does annoy the hell out of me from time to time. Merit often reminded me of Sansa Stark while Kepi reminded me of Arya Stark. Kepi is adventurous and never one to back down from a challenge as her story arc will take you far beyond the Harkan kingdom. The final character I wish to discuss is Ren, the only son of Arko and he is being held prisoner by the Soleri Empire. In order to ensure the surrounding Kingdoms do not cause an uprising, the eldest son of the kingdoms is sent to the Priory of Tolemy as a prisoner of war until the King or Queen of those Kingdoms die. Ren is by far my favorite character in Soleri and he goes though a lot of pain, suffering, but growth as well into the leader he is destined to become.
What makes Soleri an interesting read is the amount of history, religion and lore Michael Johnston introduces to his Amber Throne series. When you combine that with political tension and different groups seeking power in the capital, you are in for many twists and turns. Michael Johnston’s writing style can be more on the descriptive side, making sure you understand the surrounding buildings, landscape of the forest, and even the intricate details of the several creatures we are introduced too. This was a great choice for a shorter book with the tension building up on every page, it made the shocking moments that much more impactful. One final note on Soleri is that Michael Johnston is not one to be nice to his characters and in fact he puts several of them through hell. There is a “torture” scene in Soleri but not in the traditional sense. This showed me that the author doesn’t pull any punches and he has many interesting ideas to bring to the table.
It is very hard for me to come up with a comparison for Soleri because I haven’t read another book quite like it. If you are a fan of family drama, political and royal tension, and history shrouded in secrecy than Soleri may be the book for you. I cant wait to dive into the sequel and see how Michael Johnston continues this series.