Published by HarperCollins
To celebrate the release of Imyprium by Henry H. Neff (10/4/16), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Henry and 10 chances to win a SIGNED copy of Impyrium, as well as a Grand Prize Giveaway!
Power, Prejudice, and Social Justice in Impyrium
by Henry H. Neff
Fantasy can be a fun escape but that doesn’t mean it can’t touch upon real-world issues. Science fiction often gets the credit for this aspect of speculative fiction, but fantasy also has a place at the table. Even J.R.R. Tolkien used The Lord of the Rings to convey his distaste for industrialization, its impact on daily life, and its impact on the environment. The traitorous wizard Saruman had a “mind of metal” and didn’t merely pollute the lands around his fortress, Isengard, but infected the hobbits’ beloved Shire with his mills and machines, schedules and bosses. It’s hard to believe that Tolkien—even with his well-documented distaste for allegory—wasn’t editorializing just a little.
Social issues and justice play a central role in IMPYRIUM. The story is not solely about them, but the distribution of power, wealth, and opportunity play key roles in defining the world and its characters. After all, this is an empire where magical humans (mehrùn) comprise a tiny percentage of the population yet control most aspects of daily life. The masses of non-magical humans (muir) have limited opportunities for education, employment, and social mobility. In fact, a muir’s only real chance for advancement is to place in the incredibly competitive Province Exams and earn a spot at an Impyrial school. If that’s beyond your reach, you can look forward to a life of service, farming, or manual labor. You will never hold a title, rule a fief, or make the rules. And those that do make the rules can change them to ensure that you remember your place while they maintain theirs.
We see these issues most keenly through the eyes of Hob Smythe, one of IMPYRIUM’s two main characters. Hob is a muir boy, a commoner who can look forward to a grueling life working the mines in the frigid mountains of his homeland. Hob is tough, smart, capable, and disciplined. The world should be his oyster and yet he’s stuck in Dusk. Like most commoners, he’s had limited access to education, is kept in debt by a banking system stacked against him, and is bombarded with propaganda reinforcing the notion that mehrùn are superior, the ruling Faeregines are gods, and that magic is the source of mankind’s salvation.
In many stories, that would be enough—we’d have Hob the Everyman battling against his Evil Oppressors. But I’ve never been interested in black and white characters or issues. As someone who has studied quite a bit of history, it’s rarely that neat and easy. Few of history’s most horrific dictators viewed themselves as villains. Instead, they tended to regard themselves as visionaries, as bold thinkers who alone had the will to make hard decisions necessary for “the greater good.”
If you were to ask the Divine Empress to justify the laws and social hierarchy, she’d tell you that mankind’s survival depends upon three things: suppressing technologies that could cause their destruction, cultivating magic to keep otherworldly forces at bay, and continuity of leadership to ensure that these practices continue. To the empress, individual tragedies or even widespread injustice do not matter—she’s a steward of bigger things. As she tells her granddaughters, “it is a Faeregine’s burden to remember” the terrible forces that brought about the Cataclysm some 3,000 years ago. It’s the Faeregines responsibility not only to rule an empire, to maintain an uneasy truce with the demonic Lirlanders, and to ensure that the dragons posted at the Otherland Gates are keeping vigil on forces beyond our world. This is serious stuff, and if that means that muir must serve, and that commoners can’t do everything they please, then so be it. The Divine Empress has bigger fish to fry.
But that doesn’t mean Hob won’t fight for change, or that Hazel Faeregine isn’t troubled by the inequalities she witnesses when she leaves the Sacred Isle. But it does mean that there aren’t always easy answers, and that humans have always struggled to find the right balance between liberty and security. These questions have always interested me, and IMPYRIUM gives me a fun theater in which to explore them.
Want to learn more about Impyrial justice? Click here and dive into a tale where Old Magic meets new dangers.
Stop by The OWL tomorrow for day #8 of the tour!
In the first book of Henry H. Neff’s new high-stakes middle grade fantasy series, two unlikely allies confront a conspiracy that will shake the world of Impyrium to its core.
For over three thousand years, the Faeregine dynasty has ruled Impyrium. But the family’s magic has been fading, and with it their power over the empire. Whether it’s treachery from a rival house, the demon Lirlanders, or rebel forces, many believe the Faeregines are ripe to fall.
Hazel, the youngest member of the royal family, is happy to leave ruling to her sisters so that she can study her magic. But the empress has other plans for her granddaughter, dark and dangerous plans to exploit Hazel’s talents and rekindle the Faeregine mystique. Hob, a commoner from the remote provinces, has been sent to the city to serve the Faeregines—and to spy on them.
One wants to protect the dynasty. The other wants to destroy it. But when Hazel and Hob form an improbable friendship, their bond may save the realm as they know it…or end it for good.
About the Author: Henry H. Neff grew up outside Chicago before going off to Cornell University, Impyrium is his second series. The first, The Tapestry, is a five-volume epic that follows the life and adventures of Max McDaniels. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his wife and two sons. You can also find him at www.henryhneff.com.
where he majored in history. Before becoming a writer, he was a management consultant and also taught history at a San Francisco high school.
- One (1) winner will receive an Impyrium Prize Pack featuring a collector’s box packed with a signed copy of Impyrium, bookmark, poster, Hob temporary tattoo, and a signed sketch by Henry H. Neff (not pictured: bookmark, tattoo, and sketch)
- Enter via the rafflecopter below
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- Ends 11/6 at midnight ET
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