"The Vacant Throne" by Joshua Palmatier


Writers of fantasy and science fiction know that there are certain leaps they can take into the unknown or impossible and their readers will leap with them. Disregard gravity or the speed of light and you might get somewhere fast, but set it among people who have recently come down from a tree and it’s best not to give them chromium spaceships to do it. Works of science fiction and fantasy are created with their own internal rules and regulations and a writer who can’t obey his or her own direction is not going to suspend disbelief and direct the readers to the next page.

The great appeal of fantasy in our times may partly be due to the rewards in leaving the constrictions of the everyday for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts or the wonders of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. For the truly adventurous there is the teeming, troubled city-state of Amenkor and the conflicts fought out in the Throne of Amenkor trilogy by Joshua Palamatier. The first of the books, “The Skewed Throne”, appeared in 2005 and its sequels, “The Cracked Throne” and “The Vacant Throne” followed each a year later.

The City of Amenkor has been a great trading center for a thousand years, but has been ravaged twice by a destructive force called the White Fire, a thousand years earlier and again a decade ago. The leader of Amenkor is the Mistress of the Skewed Throne, but she has seemingly been driven mad and killed by the White Fire, and the Throne appears to have lost its magical force along with the record of Amenkor’s history and people. A new Mistress arises from the slums and alleys of the rough street called the Dredge. However, Varis is “gutterscum”, unschooled and unsure of herself, even as she learns to apply her own magical powers. The story is told from her point of view.

The denizens of Palmatier’s world – a hierarchy of Servants, Protectors and Adepts as well as their adversaries – are bestowed with supernatural powers. Varis can draw on “the river” to link herself to other people and their feelings. Then there are the Five Magics: the Rose for healing, the Life Blood, the Sight and its sensitivity to danger, the Threads and, highest of all, the Fire. Some individuals can transfer their strength and minds through a conduit and unite their power.

Under attack by the forces of the Chorl, Amenkor is unprepared to fight to victory either by land or sea and must seek help from its old ally, the city-state of Venitte. Amidst much political maneuvering Varis must lead a perilous sea journey to Venitte, where a twin to the Skewed Throne might restore the powers of the Throne of Amenkor.

‘I believe in what everyone in Amenkor believes in,” Keven said, after a long moment of thought. “I believe in the Mistress…’

”You don’t believe in the Skewed Throne?’

He shrugged. ‘The Mistress and the Skewed Throne are one and the same. The throne is simply a symbol of the Mistress’ power.’

‘But the throne is dead.’

‘You aren’t. And the general population of Amenkor never sees the throne. To them, it is truly a symbol, a gesture they make over their heart, a sign they see on a dead man’s forehead after you’ve passed judgment and the Seekers have carried that judgment out. What is real to them, what they see practically every day, is you… To them, you are the power, and it’s you that they – and I – believe in. Not a chunk of stone sitting in an empty room.’
– from The Vacant Throne

Dr. Joshua Palmatier, who lives in Binghamton, holds a Ph.D. in mathematics and is an assistant professor of mathematics at SUNY Oneonta. His fiction has attracted wide interest and generated many comments on his Live Journal. A couple of days before appearing on OFF THE PAGE, Palmatier was one of the participants in Balticon, a major science fiction and fantasy convention in Baltimore. The popularity of the Throne of Amenkor series has even spawned an Official Minion and a sideline of memorabilia.

Joshua Palmatier joins Bill Jaker to tell about the Throne trilogy, his forthcoming novel “Well of Sorrows” and working in the realm of fantasy.

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