Richard Swan is joining us today to talk about his novel, The Justice of Kings. Here’s the publisher’s description:
The Empire of the Wolf simmers with unrest. Rebels, heretics, and powerful patricians all challenge the power of the Imperial throne.
Only the Order of Justices stands in the way of chaos. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is the most feared Justice of all, upholding the law by way of his sharp mind, arcane powers, and skill as a swordsman. At his side stands Helena Sedanka, his talented protégé, orphaned by the wars that forged the Empire.
When the pair investigates the murder of a provincial aristocrat, they unearth a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of Imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt and Helena must make a choice: Will they abandon the laws they’ve sworn to uphold, in order to protect the Empire?
What’s Richard’s favorite bit?
My favourite part of the Justice of Kings comes around the halfway mark.
The magicks of the Empire of the Wolf series are derived from the afterlife—energies siphoned off from the “holy dimensions” and channelled in specific ways. In the lore of the novel, these magicks once belonged to the Neman Church, but have since been sanitised and secularised, and given into the custody of the Empire’s lawkeepers – the Justices of the Order of the Magistratum. Now a few magicks are used as investigative tools, whilst the rest are kept under lock and key.
One of these powers, which is wielded by Sir Konrad Vonvalt, is that of necromancy. Throughout the first half of the book, oblique references to Vonvalt’s ability to speak to the dead — something which he is at pains to avoid if at all possible — paint a picture of a talent which is probative, but also horrifying and draining.
At about the halfway mark in the Justice of Kings, a séance is conducted—though it does not go entirely to plan; but it is the scene which comes directly after this which I like more. In that scene, Sir Konrad is explaining to his clerk, Helena, our 19 year old POV character, what it is that happened, and more importantly, what went wrong.
It is a quiet, contemplative scene, taking place in the hour before dawn with a light snow pattering against the window. Helena is sure that, as Sir Konrad explains matters, he is lying about certain aspects of the séance and the creatures which inhabit the afterlife. Indeed, he is doing what he can to protect her and her sanity. Through this conversation we get hints of different planes of existence, other entities that inhabited them, and the danger they compose to unwary necromancers. In the scene he is seeking to comfort Helena, but there is a thread of horror running through it, tantalising glimpses that this hitherto low-magick world might actually contain much broader eldritch forces.
I really enjoyed writing this scene. It’s a quiet scene, a break from the action of the séance, but a subtle terror in itself; a way to explore the dynamic between Sir Konrad and Helena as well as a way of dropping hints of things to come. I love the idea that the entities that exist in the afterlife are not like the angels and demons preached by the Neman Church, but rather they are inscrutable beings, existing in a way that is largely incompatible with human thought and rationality. Nonetheless, some are predatory—and some are malevolent.
I had better not say more, for spoiler reasons, but I knew after I wrote this scene that I was going to inject a subtle theme of horror throughout the trilogy. I hope readers find it as satisfying to read as I did to write.
Richard Swan was born in North Yorkshire and spent most of his early life on Royal Air Force bases in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. After studying law at the University of Manchester, Richard was Called to the Bar in 2011. He subsequently retrained as a solicitor specialising in commercial litigation. When he is not working, Richard can be found in London with his wonderful wife Sophie, where they attempt to raise, with mixed results, their two very loud sons.