Artorin Damara is the Last Emperor of Astandalas and present Lord Magus of Zunidh. He is respected as a great mage, revered as a living god, regarded as the embodiment of power and wealth and majesty. Few have seen him in anything but the most resplendent garments; fewer still have ever looked him in the eyes.
He is possibly the last person you would expect to find breaking into the tomb of the first Emperor of Astandalas. He could, after all, have entered it legitimately.
But Artorin Damara has a great secret, which he has kept hidden since before he ascended to the throne, and part of it is that he knows perfectly well how to set about on an adventure.
Another part of it is that his true name is not actually the one that everyone knows him by...
I walked across England in 2013, fulfilling a long-held dream. I'm currently the sexton of an Anglican church in Nova Scotia, which means I am keeper of the keys and opener of doors (and shutter-off of alarms). I have a PhD in medieval studies from the University of Toronto, looking at poetry and philosophy in the works of Dante and Boethius -- both the poetry and the philosophy come into my stories a great deal (and occasionally the Dante and the Boethius).
I like writing about the ordinary lives of magical people on the other side of the looking glass ... and the extraordinary deeds of ordinary folk, too. Three of my favourite authors are Patricia McKillip (especially 'The Riddle-Master of Hed' trilogy and 'The Bell at Sealy Head'), Connie Willis ('Bellwether' and 'To Say Nothing of the Dog,' which latter would make my top-ten books on a desert island), and Lois McMaster Bujold ('The Curse of Chalion' and its sequels). I'm aiming somewhere between them and Neil Gaiman's 'Stardust' ...
Hilarious, and once again kind, Victoria Goddard managed to write a charming follow-up to the events in The Hands of the Emperor covering the start of His Radiancy's quest to find an heir, albeit in a very different style. (If you've read The Hands of the Emperor the continual references to Kip will bring a smile to your face.)
The Return of Fitzroy Angursell does continue the theme of what it means to be truly known from The Hands of the Emperor, and covers the trials of finding your footing in once again interacting with the world instead of simply acting on the world. I'm still not sure if Fitzroy/Artorin is a character that things happen to or if he is a character that happens to things. His adventures contain a highly impressive amount of chaos and happenstance.
Friendship, hilarious misunderstandings, adventures, and some tantalizing hints at prior adventures round up this book. I am definitely looking forward to more as it breaks off at a decent stopping point but without answering many of the questions that pop-up and before the old gang is all back together.
There are grammatical errors, rambling sentences, and some interesting pacing choices (starts off a bit like shooting out of a canon before slowing to a ramble), but I am glad to have my hands on this story - reading it was a blast.
Oh, lovely. One of my favourite characters from the Nine Worlds books finally regains some freedom and can go on an adventure.
I love Fitzroy as a character. And really, who else would get asked *this* in the very first chapter?
“Are you planning on breaking into any more tombs?”
I love Fitzroy as a narrator, too. He warms my heart. With all that sarcasm, he is hiding his griefs from the reader. Yet, what a joyful adventurer he is, despite everything. And the real quest is about finding missing pieces of himself, of course. In the meantime, there are ancient wonders to meet; people to help; lots of mischief to accomplish; hidden cities to find; great feats of magic to do.
Meetings with old friends had me reeling - in a joyful and delightful way. Masseo is wonderful, I want to see so much more of him. I love Jullanar too, come and drink tea with us, Jullanar! I don’t quite love Pali yet (she was mean to Fitzroy! No one gets to be mean to Fitzroy!), but she seems cool, anyway. I loved how this book filled in some of the blanks of the larger story. Give me more, please.
Can you imagine how refreshing it is to read a fantasy novel with middle-aged characters? They are slightly out of practice when it comes to adventuring, though. How about that tent? Nope, we didn’t pack a tent, oh dear.
“You watched me do all my packing!” “I don’t think you should sound so superior. You had a spare anvil ready to go, but not a tent?” ……. “And you had all those pillows!…”
They did bring firewood…
Is this a cozy book? Not if you want tea and scones. But if you want good people being good, then yes. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t any hurt feelings, tragedies in the background, emotional conversations or confessions.
Would I have loved this book as much if this was my very first Victoria Goddard? No, I would have shrugged and wondered. So, this is not an ideal entry point for the Nine Worlds stories. But I still would have loved this:
“…for I am a wild mage and my heart sings when the deed is right and the time is now.”
My only complaint is that the book was too short ;)
I don't want to spoil anything, as this book follows the further adventures of a fairly prominent character in The Hands of the Emperor, but believe me when I say that this book SLAPPED. It had everything I could have wanted. Great displays of magic! Flying ships! Rediscovering an ancient city! Heart-to-heart conversations with your best friends! I can't wait to read all the other existing stories about the Red Company's adventures. (As if I wasn't already going to read everything by this author.)
The Hands of the Emperor was a delight, even though it was as if I was reading a fic for a canon I was not at all familiar with; but The Return of Fitzroy Angursell felt unfinished - barely started, even. As the book felt like 1/3rd of a story, so is my rating 1/3rd of 5 stars it would otherwise get.
I found myself vaguely discontented with this read and - to be honest - I'd recommend that readers like me, who have come off the high of The Hands of the Emperor didn't bother with this book. (The author's note refers to another book in the series, focussing on Kip, being forthcoming and perhaps it would be better to wait til it's published, race through this one and then onto the next.)
I think my issues stem from this feeling like two separate books. One is about a trickster storyteller with an Adventerous Youth reuniting with his old friends in his middle-age. That's actually an awesome story! I want to read it! (Maybe without it becoming clear that it actually links heavily into the author's other series.) The other story is about a man who has been sequestered away as an all-powerful emperor striking out on his own, learning independence and also learning to take pride in the man and the past he thinks he needs to run away from. Also an awesome story!
Alas, I don't think they should have been the same story. The idea of Artorin also being Fitzroy is fun, and certainly lends itself to a few of the identity porn moments I love, but it also served to confuse the emotional arc I thought the emperor was going through. If he had lived independently for ~ten years as a young man, and had such confidence and joy in meeting people, then it sort of takes away from the fish-out-of-water trope I was expecting. I did love in THOTE when he clearly loved meeting everyone, and so those moments translated well; I also liked the scenes where he got to see and experience viscerally and close-up the impact of his (and Kip's) work. I loved at the end of the book where he introduced himself by his real name.
But the Fitzroy stuff kind of muddied the waters a bit. And the crow thing (?!?).
Also detracting from what I think are the 'good bits' was the excessive travel descriptions. The strength of THOTE was in the connections and conversations about people, and so the bits where Tor is just travelling alone and describing the landscape get a bit boring. It's far more interesting when he meets people (not his old friends - his subjects, I suppose) and gets stuck into some good problem solving. His satisfaction and joy in being able to sweep in (like the divinity he half-way pretended to be) and help people actually gave me slight Vorkosigan vibes, and I would have loved more of the book along those lines.
I wish this had been a novel more purely focussed on Tor's quest for his heir, and had ended more satisfactorily. As it stands it seemed to end in medias res (he's collected three of his eight friends? I think? It's a bit confusing) and without a clear resolution. And, to be honest, after getting us to care so much about Kip and their other friends in the first book, I wanted to see THEIR reactions to the return of Fitzroy Angursell.
this book is structurally very strange, thematically very different from its immediate predecessor (hands of the emperor), and sort of all over the place tonally. it's an adventure novel in the sense that it's a series of improbable coincidences, brief episodes of action linked by rambling accounts of travel, and joyous meetings and reunions. i don't know that i would have liked it as much if i didn't have so much affection for this series & world as a whole, but i do and i did. it's chaotic and improbable and beautiful, about old friendships and middle-aged people adventuring and recovery from long, hard years of pain and difficulty.
i would NOT recommend touching it without having first read the hands of the emperor, and possibly not until the series is a little more complete: i'm starting to learn that victoria goddard tends toward either (a) unimaginably long books, as in the hands of the emperor, or (b) much shorter adventure stories that are so episodic i think they should properly be structured as longer books themselves. i think the book is also much improved with the additional context of the greenwing and dart series, at least the first few installments of it.
i like this fictional universe because no matter where you enter it it feels as if you're being thrown headlong midway into a long and complicated canon full of legends and cross-references and folk heroes and epic tales of its own, and i think part of the fun is the puzzle of untangling all the people and worlds and the ways that they all fit together. so it's an immense amount of fun here to begin to meet the fabled red company and understand the way they work, and it's even more fun if you know all the other people of the nine worlds swimming in and out of it. this is a series that rewards attention and multiple readings — goddard's project really is huge and impressive — even (or maybe because) it's a little complicated and a little rough around the edges in places.
it (and by 'it' i mean either the series or this individual book equally) is also deeply committed to coincidence and folkloric adventure and joy, which makes it read as a little unfashionable in the current landscape of contemporary fantasy but which i think is refreshing and lovely to read. i've seen the nine worlds series compared to pratchett with its sprawling scale, but i don't think that's at all accurate tonally: goddard is not nearly as funny as pratchett, and when she is funny she doesn't have quite his dryness or his sarcasm or his propensity to parody; she's too earnest for him. she's also not nearly as angry (though she touches on some of his fire in the hands of the emperor most of all her books). instead, this series reminds me of t. kingfisher's books, if they were all hopelessly intertwined and impossible to read without each other: exceptionally earnest, very kind, a little silly and often startlingly beautiful.
4.75 Another relatively undramatic fantasy novel, but compared to Hands of the Emperor this one reads much more easily (and I'm not only talking about the physical weight). Starting out as a picaresque the story quickly goes more into the territory of self-discovery and relationships. Don't expect much action, but there are some very emotionally charged scenes (that are all very well done). There is still quite a large amount things working out all right, but the conflicts are more pronounced. All in all a very promising beginning to the Emperor's adventure. And how many fantasy novels do you know that feature a universal basic income as a major plot point?
Bonus: The only story I've read that has a white dude playing the role of the magical negro for a black person.
This book is odd because on its own, it's... fine. It might even be good. If it were a standalone novel, I might give it four stars. Fitzroy is a fun character and the way that he sees the world is refreshing.
But it's not a standalone and Fitzroy is not a fun character--
I'm just here to do my prerequisite reading before At the Feet of the Sun. This book is great! Charming and whimsical and it feels lighter than Hands of the Emperor. Loved the first person POV, would have loved a little more leaning into the feelings of it, though, you know?
Missed my guy Kip even though he's mentioned every other page.
entendo completamente as pessoas que falaram que esse livro parece incompleto, mas eu achei perfeito, é só uma parte de uma história muito maior, e que privilégio ter a permissão de ver o começo dessa aventura, achei perfeito
a narrativa foi ótima, o fitzroy tem tanta personalidade que faz completo sentido ser em primeira pessoa, e é tão bom ler os pensamentos deles após conhecermos ele no pov do kip
quero mais da red company (e conhecer os outros membros que não apareceram nesse livro)
"It was my first experience of anything resembling flight, tumbling down several hundred feet out of thin air towards a river. It was exhilarating, though I couldn’t really do anything besides hold onto my bag and the cloak and fall head over heels in love with existence."
hoooo boy, i am not built for high fantasy, but this captured me anyways. love and understanding and friendship is the core of all of these wonderful books, with a nice unique fantasy setting, which i’ll be the first to admit i ignored at points in favor of skimming to the meaty character stuff. nobody can outshine Kip for me, but Masseo and Jules and Fitz all together sure came close. lovely!
Unfortunately, unlike the other books in this world that I've read, this one leaves a lot to be desired.
The first issue is that the first-person Fitzroy Angursell is hard to be believed as a famous poet. His narrative is so self-conscious, overwrought, and full of adverbs and unnecessary details (who cares if he uses his left hand to brush the hair out of someone's face or about his obsession with clothing?) that it's hard to see any poetics in this self-interested dandy and his uptight language.
The second is that we cannot reconcile the character of the Emperor -- especially the aged Emperor who has benefited from character development -- with this juvenile half-wit. It's a completely different character from what we see in either The Hands of the Emperor or Petty Treasons. It's unbelievable that the Emperor either would have devolved into his pre-Emperor persona or completely changed. If you want to write this character, write the character, but don't try to force one character to be two totally different people. It doesn't do the series justice.
The third is as if the Emperor in whatever his form, has not learned anything from his time with Kip. He uses words like "uncivilized." Really? Really? After Kip's ceremony and demonstration about how his people are not savages? And the mentions of a woman having a child "out of wedlock," or the mention of "hysteria." Fitzroy takes these words for granted without objection. It isn't as if he's just accepting a different culture -- the words are not examined. I would have expected better from him.
Finally, we do not see the character development we should expect. This book is entirely a vessel for a throwaway story that has a lot of color but no substance. Fitzroy's development is entirely superficial rather than psychological. This book is one not of relationships or internal growth but of antics. I do not read this series for antics.
Goddard writes some of the most singlarly character-driven books I have read, in which traditional action and danger, though they sometimes amble onto the scene, are of minor importance.
Instead, deeper questions concern our merry travellers—and the ways in which those questions are answered feel sublime.
If you need a battle scene every ten pages or to lie awake every night wondering if your favorite character is going to make it, The Return of Fitzroy Angursell (and likewise The Hands of the Emperor) might not be for you (then again, they're so vivid and beautifully written, so who knows?).
If you need to escape into a world in which people you will come to love undertake journeys of great significance, or undertake the rebuilding of worlds, or (greatest feat of all) learn how to talk to each-other like adults, these books are for you.
As for me, I love them, and I'm glad to see that Goddard has many more titles available, may her inkwell never run dry.
So here's the thing. If you read this right after reading The Hands of the Emperor, (and sequentially it happens right after, so it would be logical to do so), you're going to be disappointed. And that's nothing against this book, just a reflection of how wonderful Hands is! This book is doing something different, it's written in a different style, and it seems a lot less emotionally dense. (Also Kip isn't in it, so you'll be missing him desperately.)
BUT. Goddard has a story she's telling, and this is only one small installment in it, and it's a story well worth getting immersed in. I suggest reading the Sisters Avramapul books first, to cleanse your palate after Hands of the Emperor and get used to the adventure-story style. Then read Tower at the Edge of the World and Petty Treasons to get into this character's head. Then read Return of Fitzroy, and go immediately on to read The Redoubtable Pali Avramapul. By then you'll have most of the full arc and will have completely fallen in love with Artorin, I promise!
A picaresque lurch from what is in some ways the book immediately preceding this in Goddard's Nine World's Chronology (Hands of the Emperor) and in others feels like a completely different series. A meandering, quasi-comic, emotional travelogue as semi-accidentally gets the band back together.
As with much of Goddard's work, a more unforgiving editorial hand would have been beneficial, but it's still great fun. Odd crossover with the until now seemingly only very loosely linked Greenwing & Dart series, which is fun if you've read that, but the plot is a bit loose and the conclusion feels more like a stopping point than an end. Clearly the first book in this particular story, and it may read better once the whole is released, but for now feels rather distinctly like only a fragment of the story.
Why yes, I do love watching middle-aged people going on outrageous adventures and (re)discovering the power of friendship. If The Hands of the Emperor was full of quiet, deep kindness, this is just pure joy of being alive.
fourth time im trying to write a review found out if i try to hold the space button on my phone keyboard it will just yeet me to the explore page on the goodreads app so why do i even keep trying to do this
long story short: overal i like this book, mainly because i love the parts where fitzroy struggles with his identity, reconnecting with his old friends and slowly getting more and more frustrated with not being taken serious however i'm less fond of all the references he and everyone else makes to all the previous adventures they're made in a way that feels more whimsy than grounded, and in general fitzroy's narration is quite whimsy and dramatic and i'm not the biggest fan of whimsy myself in this way you don't know the context and how those adventures went (aside for a few that do take place in other books if you've read them) so it doesn't hold the weight it's supposed to have it feels like at least not when they're referenced in that ofhand way, they do hit a little when they're properly expanded upon or when used during the heart to hearts even so, fitzroy working through his feelings throughout the book more than make up for it, i just wish there was more of that tone and a bit less of the whimsy
also, and this is definite spoilers, but i did think the part in which he undoes a pretty grand curse was really good as well and very interesting i like this series' worldbuilding and i wish there was a map to look at or a timeline sometimes
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This was a pretty fun book. While not as impactful as The Hands of the Emperor it was still enjoyable. Fitzroy is a particularly chaotic character, in sharp contrast with the meticulous and orderly Kip. It was clear even to me that Fitzroy has changed a lot, compared to all the legends alluded to in this book and the prior. The reconciliation of his past, present, and future is a bit of a theme and plays out with his interactions with old and new friends. Goddard's knack for powerful emotional encounters is a key driver to the plot. I look forward to her upcoming book, At the Feet of the Sun, for even more adventures!
Why is this so so so beautiful, I can't write anything wrong of this book only it was too short? I'm afraid Goddard is going to ace it with any story she writes. I love the light tone, and the lack of villains or tragedy. Also the raise of communism. Oh well,
How is it that I can read a new Victoria Goddard book and love it even more than the previous ones, but still love those previous ones even more than the current ones?!? I need a new level of star rating just to encompass how much joy, sadness, pain, amazement, and the whole rest of the gamut of emotions I feel while reading one of her stories. I'm always so sad when I come to the end. But also happy because this means I get to reread it, and (hopefully) go read some other new ones!
Now then, don't read this book before you've read Hands of the Emperor and (preferably also) Petty Treasons. The stories build on one another, and while you can definitely read this one as a standalone, so many of the little tidbits about Kip and HR's life before this book will fly over your head.
I paused halfway through this book to go back and reread The Hands of the Emperor, because, it turns out, there's a *ton* of foreshadowing in that book about HR's true identity! I, of course, did not catch any of it, since I read HotE in a 3-day-no-sleep-haze, and so upon rereading caught so many more of the references and hints and it made HotE even more special.
This book, itself, is very slice-of-life. It tales the adventures of HR after he leaves the palace and sets out to find his Heir. We journey from one countryside to the next, to a town, to a city, to more countryside. Gathering up the Red Company once more, and getting more tantalizing snippets of their adventures together in the past. Time shenanigans are even more on display in this book, as one city felt 4000 years pass in only a few decades, while the 1000 since the Fall was only 13 years for one member of the Red Company. It's such a strange way to tell the story, especially since I *adore* timelines and really wish we had one. But when every part of the Nine Worlds has experienced time differently, a timeline is truly impossible.
I loved seeing HR flummoxed because he didn't pack a tent. I loved how he had to relearn to touch, to share emotions, to be Fitzroy. Even though Fitzroy was never a guise or a costume. He needs to learn to be himself, to be Fitzroy, to be Artorin, all at the same time. I hope future stories of his adventures will keep diving into his self that way.
And, also, I'm dying to see his return to the palace and when he *finally* introduces himself to Kip with his own, chosen, name!
I thought maybe since this is so much shorter than The Hands of the Emperor, that it would be more tightly written, but mostly it just...ends sooner because the story isn't done yet. Tonally this is a big shift from THotE, which which as far as I can tell means it's more in line with the various earlier stories set in this world. I read a couple of them first, and they were fun, and fine. It really feels to me like Goddard built her world around this sort of larger-than-life adventure story, then decided she wanted to try something different in THotE, and now she's trying to bring that all together in a way that is more self-indulgent than coherent. One minute it's one kind of story, and then a scene later it's the other, without apparent narrative awareness. Plus some stuff that I think is meant to be easter eggs for fans of earlier stories takes up too much room. I think I saw a different reviewer describe THotE as feeling like fanfiction of a canon they weren't familiar with, and I totally see it. This one is now kind of like that mixed with fan service for people who like the earlier stories.
And I still have such mixed feelings about it because there's still this heart of the story where Artorin trying to re-learn how to be a person after some extremely indeterminate amount of time as emperor/not-quite-emperor (I am trying not to let the time weirdness put me off but like, there's a way to handle "everything is confusing and weird!" in a way that doesn't just feel like lazy cheating and this is not it, IMO), and now it's colliding with the story of how the only other time he had a chance to just be a person in the world, he was still mostly performing a role laid out for him. A vastly different kind of role, and obviously one he enjoyed more, but still more about performance than anything else. And that's a super interesting idea to me and I want to explore that tension, and yet I am almost as frustrated as I am entertained because Goddard just really needs a more ruthless editor. The typos and small grammar weirdnesses don't bother me much, but the many long-winded speeches and general plot meandering that have nothing to do with what I actually want out of the story, do.
I'm sure I'll keep reading, but also probably keep complaining.
This book follows on from "The Hands of the Emperor," switching perspective to the emperor as he embarks on a most fantastical quest. Away from his court, the emperor tries to piece together who he is. I found it a delight. Shorter and lighter in tone than "The Hands of the Emperor," it was always engaging and, at times, surprisingly moving. Yes, it rambles a bit, but very agreeably.
While I enjoyed this very much, I think it would be more perplexing and less gratifying if you hadn't first read "The Hands of the Emperor." For one thing, the frequent affectionate mentions of Kip, the central figure in "The Hands of the Emperor," might distract rather than delight.
Four out of five questing stars.
About my reviews: I try to review every book I read, including those that I don't end up enjoying. The reviews are not scholarly, but just indicate my reaction as a reader, reading being my addiction. I am miserly with 5-star reviews; 4 stars means I liked a book very much; 3 stars means I liked it; 2 stars means I didn't like it (though often the 2-star books are very popular with other readers and/or are by authors whose other work I've loved).
3.5 stars - I loved it, until it abruptly ended and then I wanted to throw it across the room. It's not that the ending was bad, but that the story feels incomplete, and there is no promise of a sequel on the horizon.
Soo I didn't realize this book was supposed to be read before Feet of the Sun and as such, I started to read that one and came across a very important plot point that happens at the very beginning of that book and shared poor Cliopher's surprised pikachu reaction. I won't spoil that here, though honestly, it shouldn't be a spoiler if one actually had been paying more attention to the subtext of Hands of the Emperor, but apparently in my complete infatuation with the writing and the characters, I neglected to actually pay attention to certain other elements (facepalm).
Anyways, I decide to take a quick detour to read this one and again, just absolutely loved it. As the title suggests, The Return of Fitzroy Angursell is about the return of the titular character after many years and his subsequent adventures in rounding up the rest of his merry outlaw band. It has a very whimsical adventure quality and it reminded me of a Hayao Miyazaki film. However, there is a big issue with this book in that is just incomplete. It feels like the first half of a story and while I know that there's a second book in this sub-series, but it definitely does not feel like a complete novel and ends in a very abrupt manner.
The Emperor goes on walkabout...I enjoyed the story, and meeting other members of the Red Company (and finding out who they all are).
** spoilers for a number of the books, not just in this series, ahead **
I appreciate His Radiancy's delight in all things mundane and getting to meet new people, and his trying to reconcile both sides of himself...he's just not my favorite character in the Nine Worlds - he probably ranks 5th (after Kip, Jemis, Raphael, and Hal).
I liked when he went to Alinor and interacted with the characters from G&D...I was just kind of disappointed Jemis didn't tell him that it was his mother that Fitzroy had written the song about in the Woods Noirell. But I'm looking forward to the further adventures of the Red Company trying to track down the missing members, although Damian and Pharia shouldn't be too difficult, as long as Fitzroy knows who Raphael really is (and really, there should be no reason for him not to, as Raphael supposedly looks just like his father).
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.