Chapter Twenty-Two: The Servant, or Doubt

Memory is the sweetest and subtlest poison of all.

– Words of the Emperor in Qepperdan, Matthieu Sartonné, as narrated to his page, Jarun Hichame

The scant light which slipped through the curtains was pale and cold, as if the sun was but some distant, fragile thing. Dawn must have been near but not so much that Matthieu did not dread the wait for it. He stretched his limbs in the silence before the city woke, feeling a dull warmth begin to take the place of weariness. How long had he slept the night before? Not enough to satisfy him, though he reminded himself when the aching in his head returned to his awareness that it was still only God’s Day. His documents would yet be at the governor-general’s mansion on the morrow. With any luck, his headache would not.

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The Emissary: Chapter Four

Nothing too grand, Arman thought ruefully as he worked his way back from whence he’d come earlier and would come once again after he completed this errand. Just a grandstand.

The word Governor Rothae had used to describe Lord Carin was peculiar; so far, it seemed to fit. Some first duty this was to be, and for the entertainment of the viceroy himself along with half the court, as it happened. He even had a letter to prove it; otherwise he would scarcely have believed this morning that by lunch time he would be on royal business.

By now the sun was nearly directly overhead. Everyone sensible had already left the cobble-stoned streets of New Vau’s Corastian quarter to escape the midday heat. All around him under awnings and on covered walkways, the bodies that made this distant colony profitable rested and drank and ate while Arman walked on with his singular purpose. Their absence gave him the space to walk that he had so desperately hoped for earlier this morning, though with none of the comforts of shade. He adjusted the brim of his broad hat but wished he’d had an umbrella.

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Chapter Twenty-One: The Translator, or Doubt

The most pernicious lie the devils ever told was in convincing the man of God that he could reasonably better his own station in the work.

– Words of the Emperor in Qepperdan, Matthieu Sartonné, as narrated to his page, Jarun Hichame

The afternoon of the new governor-general’s arrival in Varakuma should have been festive. Instead, Matthieu found it all rather funereal. There was no rain, though fog still hung heavily on the Maday. Slate-gray clouds admitted only piercing spots of sunshine far off across the eastern bank. If there had been rain, Matthieu noted dourly as he looked on from the docks with a crowd of Arcinans and Varakumi, perhaps the weather would have better suited his mood, if not the occasion. Just over five months had now passed since the night when the previous governor-general had been cut to pieces before his own mansion and there was hardly enough ale in all of Virjatal to ferry away the dread of consequence from Matthieu’s heart.

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Exile’s Gambit: Chapter Eleven

The princess could find no grief for Henija; not after what she had done. Her nurse, her most trusted companion aside from Nuwan, even more than her husband, had allowed the usurper to kill her first son yet in the womb. Before her father’s murder, the boy Jayatna would have grown to be the usurper’s rightful king. Before her Keranta was sentenced to death in all but name.

Now she feared that even the most pleasant memories of her childhood would become poisoned by the woman’s treachery. The nurse had clothed her, wiped the tears from her eyes after her mother’s flight from the capital, helped her through all the pomp and ritual that came with being a general’s first wife and daughter to a king. Even more, Bariti had permitted that they converse in the language of intimates, not of master and slave, which she and Henija had truly been. Now all that came up before her heart as a mockery of true friendship and fealty.

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Exile’s Gambit: Chapter Ten

Nineteen strange, tall ships were hard to conceal, especially near a port as busy as Tuslu, and that was why Keranta suspected that this plan to anchor them off to the northeast of Kalo Laku and land only a few smaller rowboats opposite the port was Lubik’s idea. Not Adanul’s, certainly. Had it been Adanul’s, undoubtedly the entire fleet would have announced itself to the whole of Jewaktana with the thunder of half a hundred fire lances. This close to the capital, a good sailor could bring such news of Adusinate ships to the usurper in a quarter of a moon.

It was both a blessing and a curse. The likelihood of discovery grew greater and greater as they passed through the outlying islands and into the imperial core, soon all the way to Nuritjuka, yet Keranta did not fear. Not for himself, at least. Rather, it was Bariti who occupied his thoughts and anxieties the most.

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The Queen’s Symphony: Chapter Five

Bluebirds flitted about the outstretched boughs of oaks planted in the days of some King Durent or another, sounding out their love calls to the sun that hung at its zenith in a sky of white, windblown clouds.

Lydus wanted nothing right now more than to shoot them. Had he fired a musket before? Well, no, not exactly, but how hard could it be? Simply point, fire, and rid yourself of whatever chattering annoyance you fancied least. He would like to see them dart away from a ball of molten lead with as much vigor as they had while…

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Chapter Twenty: The Tyrant, or Absolution

There must be a god greater than chance, and even greater than fate. For if either one ruled this world alone, then the agency of man was never more than a dream at best or a lie at worst.

– Words of the Emperor in Qepperdan, Matthieu Sartonné, as narrated to his page, Jarun Hichame

The Speaker of Varakuma’s nasal voice still resonated in Matthieu’s mind as he left the cathedral and worked his way to the cramped street that would take him down a now-familiar path. The Guildsman was a newer Arcinan inn, one that attracted a more rarified crowd than the Copper Crown’s regular gaggle of Company soldiers and sailors up from the docks, and for that he was thankful. Even better than the patrons were the wines and ales; some makes he remembered from nights in Leganne when little else could be recalled and others he had only heard of at the type of masquerades where he and Beate used to…

He quickened his steps almost without thinking. The walk was not far and the streets of Varakuma’s Arcinan quarter were not so full and bustling as on other holy days. Matthieu himself would not have been here at all except that the Speaker had extended a special invitation to the Governor-general to hear a special sermon on the veneration of Saint Lyda. As if in retaliation, the Governor-general had sent his entire staff instead. Something about the thought of so many words on the patron saint of protectors of the innocent had perhaps stirred Lord Ocsa to a particular disinterest. Either way, Matthieu needed a drink and cared little how much it cost him.

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Review: The Burning God by RF Kuang

See my reviews for the previous books The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic.


Well here we are at the end of The Poppy War trilogy. In case you missed my very positive reviews for the first two books, I’ll summarize by saying that they’re really good and you should go read them posthaste (the books, not the reviews). This one is also very positive but with a series like this, enjoyment and happiness need to be considered as two different things. After all, we were warned.

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Chapter Nineteen: The Lovers, or Transience

It is not permanence that gives a thing its value, but precarity.

– Words of the Emperor in Qepperdan, Matthieu Sartonné, as narrated to his page, Jarun Hichame

Had it been the first, second, or even fifth time that Father Girome had happened upon Matthieu and Deema locked in each other’s embrace in some patch of the mission garden that was not nearly as private as any of them had hoped, the priest might have interjected. As it was, the only indication of his passing was the gentle scrape of a closing window shutter above as Matthieu sat with his back against the mission wall with Deema seated on his lap, curled into him. Matthieu was not sure how to thank Girome for that simple courtesy; he knew he must, but not now.

Now was for Deema.

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An(other) increasingly inconveniently named trilogy

I made a biggish decision today that, in retrospect, is actually quite big but wasn’t entirely made today. After putting a lot of thought into my outline for the overall Default King series (inclusive of Kaschar’s Quarter, The Work of Souls, and On Eagle’s Wings) and wracking my brain trying to figure out how to best divide the chapters, I decided to split book 2 in half.

What does this mean? Well, the first and most important thing is that the next book in the series will get to you (at least in book form) sooner. This has been a concern of mine since after the first book came out in 2016, during which time I was a little busy getting my Master’s degree and spending quite a bit of time outside the country, but still making my additions and tweaks to the outline with every intention of finishing this series. The six chapters I have done are already posted on here and the plan is still to post the remaining five (really about three and a half) once they’re finished and leave them up until I can have the whole book edited. All in all it should come out to about the same length as Kaschar’s Quarter, or somewhere in the neighborhood of 70,000 words depending on what survives the editing process, up from the ~53,000 words I have written now. After that, I’ll go ahead with final formatting for the paperback and ebook versions.

The other main thing it means is that what was originally going to be the second half of The Work of Souls is the majority of what’s now the third book of four in the series: A Brighter Age.


Tentative cover art is tentative but technically, all my cover art is tentative until I have the money to commission original paintings to replace my current greatest-hits tour of “European Renaissance art that is also in the public domain with no commercial-use restrictions”. Until then, I’m sticking with the paintings.

So what this all doesn’t mean is that content is going missing or anything is really being postponed to accommodate splitting the second book. Instead, it means more content portioned out in the same quantities as before, and with more opportunities to explore Matthieu’s journey from dye merchant’s son to emperor of Qepperdan. New characters that I’d planned to introduce in the second half of The Work of Souls now get to take more prominent positions in A Brighter Age. It also helps raise the stakes for both books by taking the split at a natural transition point in Matthieu’s life, which you’ll see more of in the remaining chapters of The Work of Souls. As always, he continues to seek for answers and belonging in a world of increasing mystery and intrigue, ultimately culminating in the prologue to Kaschar’s Quarter.

I hope we’ll see you on the road.