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K. A. Khan
Year of the Four Emperors
K. A. Khan, Author

Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Create)

It is 1001 Anno Rex, and the emperor of the Empire of Kristianborg, the tyrannical Severus Valentinian, has been assassinated.

Severus leaves behind four sons, each born by a different queen consort—but without declaring an heir before his death, the throne lies vacant. Zeno, Andronikos, Leo, and Commodus all covet the illustrious title of emperor. However, they will need the support of the Council of Archons and the power of the Yeneceri army—the most prominent, most formidable soldiers in the dominion—to obtain it.

Zeno’s mother, Eleonora Ulrika, who climbed the ranks from a woman of lesser nobility to a powerful consort, uses all her wit, charm, and appeal to gain support for her son. She has spent years guiding him to become a competent warrior and military leader, especially for this very moment. However, the other queen consorts are no delicate flowers, and each wants her son on the throne. Battles, murder, bribes, and treachery ensue as each vies for the pinnacle of power.

Yet against this backdrop of politics, war, and a fight for the throne lies something more sinister, something more threatening, something no one empire of men can hold back. . . .

A tale of politics, intrigue, war, and lust, Year of the Four Emperors sets the stage for the forthcoming books in The Grand Duchess series .

Khan’s intriguing debut fantasy pits brother against brother as they compete to be the next heir to the throne. Emperor Severus Valentinian wasn’t a well-liked ruler and paid the price for his malevolence by being murdered in his chamber. Having not yet appointed an heir, and with no children born to the queen, the kingdom faces the possibility of one of the emperor’s four sons from four different consorts ascending to the throne. Each mother wants the throne as much as the sons, but none more than Eleonora, who has plotted and schemed from the beginning to ensure she produces an heir—and a shot at real power of her own. When powerful forces outside the kingdom begin to affect the outcome of who will become emperor, Eleonora does anything she can to ensure her son’s elevation to emperor.

Khan creates four very different personalities for each brother, leading readers to understand how each has a fault that could ultimately lead to their demise. Beyond their personal weaknesses, like gluttony, the succession also is shaped by many other influences, with other nobles and politicians taking sides and moving their own pieces, and their dangerous enemies, the Vampir, waiting for the opportunity to take them all down. Khan relishes the intrigue, introducing a host of different characters and creatures with their own agendas, plus a varied number of threats, keeping the cast and readers of political fantasy on edge.

Across many different lands and jumping back and forth through several timelines, Khan covers a great deal of story in a short time. While it all comes together nicely by the end, the richness and complexity of the story can prove challenging, as Khan often leaves it to readers to work out the particulars of what timeline they are reading about, and how characters and events will affect the overall story. A lengthy prologue lacks urgency, a hurdle for readers intrigued by the book’s strong, inventive premise and conflict.

Takeaway: Intriguing story of royal succession, political machinations, and a mother’s ambitions.

Comparable Titles: John Gwynne’s The Shadow of the Gods, Django Wexler’s Emperor of Ruin.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A_
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A