Inheritors of Power: The truth of the broken trust is revealed

Inheritors of Power by Juliette WadeInheritors of Power by Juliette WadeInheritors of Power by Juliette Wade

“…A single executive, when chosen by vote of the general population, is not at all the same as a king.”

Inheritors of Power (2022) is like a magic trick, exploding everything I thought I understood about the Varin society from the first two books in the BROKEN TRUST series. I had assumed that the political system in place in Varin’s underground cities had started off basically good and jiggled off-track over time. With Book Three, I have to re-examine that conclusion, and I’m not the only one. Revelations in this book upend belief systems for in-world characters as well as the reader.

To take care of the trivial issues first: I also assumed that the series title, “The Broken Trust” was meant metaphorically. This book sets me straight, revealing the meaning of the series name. It also continues the family saga of Varin’s First Family.

Tagaret and Adon are the brothers of Nekantor, the Eminence, or sole ruler, of Varin, that “single executive” referenced in the quotation above. We watched their corrupt father groom Nekantor for power in the first book. Now at the pinnacle of Varin society, Nekantor has developed into a full-blown dictator. He’s created the Eminence’s Cohort, a group of terror troops, and begun arresting more people, so many that they’re enlarging the main prison in Pelismara. Systems in the capital are faltering, not just social systems. The city faces a blackout when a piece of equipment fails and the back-up fails too.

While Tagaret and his partner Della have been sent to another city, Selimna, and are managing to erode Varin’s rigid caste system, Adon is Nekantor’s Heir, closely watched, and under near-constant psychological assault from his brother. It is a mark of how isolated Adon is that he has refused to take a personal servant from among the Imbati, the servant caste, after his last servant died.

Young Catin, just graduated from the Imbati Academy, is startled when Adon requests an interview with her, and shocked when he accepts her as his new servant. The shocks don’t end there. Traditionally, an Imbati body-servant takes an oath, swearing on the Trust of Grobal to dedicate themselves to their master. Catin is asked to dedicate herself to her master and to the nation. This alone is proof that something is rotten in the state of Varin.

In addition to serving Adon, the Academy asks Catin to study Xinta, the servant of Nekantor himself. The Academy fears that Xinta is manipulating the Eminence and has even become a puppet master. This would be a corruption of his oath.

In Inheritors of Power, for the first time, we have characters from the undercaste, the Akrabitti, playing a pivotal role in the story. The Akrabitti tend the bodies of the dead, oversee recycling and collect trash. In an underground society that is hugely dependent on recycling for survival, you might think recyclers would be treated with respect. Then again, in a society based largely on high technology and information, you might expect teachers to be respected… or during a global outbreak of a deadly virus, you might expect public health staff, nurses and doctors to be respected. In all three cases, you’d be wrong. The Akrabitti are the most oppressed and reviled of Varin society.

The Broken Trust by Juliette WadeThis is the status quo when the book opens, but immediately, the discovery of a cache of documents and old artifacts in a disused elevator shaft changes everything. What seems at first like a collection of curiosities is revealed to be a game-changer, unless it’s lost or destroyed.

The structures that hold Varin society in stasis are crumbling socially, economically, and physically. Juliette Wade is exploring systems here, the way they function and they way they don’t. This could make for something of a dry read, but the relationships in this book are vibrant, realistic and dramatic. In particular, the dynamic between Nekantor and Xinta is almost tortured.

We have seen Nekantor evolve into a dictator and a villain, but we also watched how he was brought up and what his father did to him. It’s possible to hate everything Nekantor does and still have sympathy for him as a person. Similarly, it’s possible, even easy, to see Xinta as a tortured soul desperately trying to honor his oath, even as his own belief systems call his actions into question.

Meetis and Corbinan, the Akrabitti, bring a new perspective and new information, particularly about the wysps. The wysps are a native species to Varin, who drove the humans underground. In the subterranean cities, the occasional wysp drifts around like a firefly, and might sting you, but you won’t die. On the surface, clouds of them will attack. Even in the cities, if enough of them swarm you, they will kill you. The other castes see them as a dangerous nuisance; but the Akrabitti relate to them differently — dangerous yes, but something other than a pest. Information about the wysps, like the shinca-trees, all expand the world of Varin, and call many truisms into doubt.

Without spoilers, I will say that Meetis is the catalyst for much that happens in this story.

At the opposite end of the continuum from Nekantor/Xinta, we have Adon and Catin. Adon is symbolic of a new kind of Grobal, and his relationship with Catin is non-traditional. His struggle, however, is to avoid corruption, when every door to reform seems closed and locked. Adon is deeply tempted to take an action that will probably make Varin better (at least in the short term) and make him worse in the process.

Nekantor seems indifferent to the archive. He does have the Academy archivists cataloging it, but he doesn’t even maintain a regular guard on it. At first I thought this was implausible until I remembered that Nekantor doesn’t care for books, and in many ways, he is complacent. It’s Xinta who is interested in the archive… and possibly someone else, whose identity we don’t know yet.

Book Three shakes up Varin from bottom to top. It opens up this underground world—literally in the case of Meetis and Corbinan. It answers many questions and leads to many more. When’s the next book due out? I need to know.

Published in February 2022. The third book of The Broken Trust continues an epic struggle for power, kindled in the hearts of two brothers, as it spreads to crack the foundations of their underground society. Many years have passed since the Eminence Nekantor and Heir Adon seized power, and life in Pelismara has found a fragile equilibrium under Nekantor’s thumb. Now the Imbati Service Academy suspects that Xinta, Manservant to the Eminence, may have taken control of Nekantor for his own sinister purposes, endangering what peace still remains. Imbati Catín, an Academy prodigy, vows service to Adon, balancing two core purposes — to advance her Master’s designs on power, and to determine the full extent of Xinta’s influence. When a trash hauler named Akrabitti Corbinan walks into a place he doesn’t belong, everything falls out of balance. Catín, who is investigating this newly discovered hidden library, immediately arrests Corbinan for trespassing. Nekantor then seizes Corbinan, believing he’s a spy who sought to topple the government, and Xinta vanishes him before Catín can determine his intent. What was Corbinan really seeking? What dangerous information does the library contain, that Xinta might seek to control? And what might happen if someone more dangerous finds Corbinan first?

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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