Exclusive Interview: “Inheritors Of Power” Author Juliette Wade


With Inheritors Of Power (paperback, Kindle), writer Juliette Wade is presenting the third novel in her five-part sociological science fiction series The Broken Trust. But as she explains in the following email interview, Inheritors was originally going to be where this saga started.

Juliette Wade Inheritors Of Power The Broken Trust Mazes Of Power Transgressions Of Power

Photo Credit: Suszi Lurie McFadden


For people who didn’t read the first two books, Mazes Of Power and Transgressions Of Power, what is The Broken Trust series about, and when and where is it set?

The Broken Trust series takes place in a secondary world — in other words, in a universe not our own that is nonetheless inhabited by human beings. People on the continent of Varin can’t live in the surface wilderness, which is full of drifting sparks called wysps which will attack. So, for a thousand years, the people of Varin have lived in cavern cities like the capital, Pelismara. Under electric lights on the cavern roofs, classical stone buildings stand beside concrete apartment blocks, and the streets are full of both pedestrians and high-tech maglev skimmers. The story digs deep into a tumultuous part of Varin’s history, beginning at the moment when two noble brothers grow to become polar opposites of one another: one hungry for power and to advance his family’s role in the systems that have stood for hundreds of years, the other desperate to rectify terrible caste-based abuses that cause people throughout Varin to suffer. Their decisions begin a cascade of events that soon expand beyond their family and the noble caste itself.

And then for people who have read Mazes and Transgressions, and thus don’t need to heed my SPOILER WARNING, what is Inheritors Of Power about?

Inheritors Of Power takes place seventeen years after the events of Transgressions Of Power, and shifts the focus of the series away from the nobility. Although the Eminence Nekantor continues to jail opponents and to expand First Family influence through the cities of Varin, now the Imbati Service Academy suspects that Xinta, his manservant, may have taken control of him for independent sinister purposes, endangering the fragile peace. Imbati Catín, an Academy prodigy, vows service to the Heir to the throne, intending both to advance her Master’s designs on power and to determine the extent of Xinta’s influence. This might be difficult enough, but then a trash hauler named Akrabitti Corbinan walks into a place he doesn’t belong — a newly discovered hidden library — right into the presence of the Heir and Catín. Catín arrests him for trespassing, but Nekantor soon seizes Corbinan, believing he is a spy who sought to topple the government. Xinta makes him vanish before Catín can determine his intent, and she must try to find him before anyone else does. This book deals with Xinta’s political influence, the Heir and Catín’s attempts to stop him and the Eminence Nekantor, and what happens when unexpected people discover the dangerous information in the library.

When in the process of writing Mazes Of Power and Transgressions Of Power did you come up with the idea for Inheritors Of Power, and what inspired that idea?

In fact, I came up with the idea for Inheritors Of Power long before I wrote either Mazes Of Power or Transgressions Of Power. In the beginning, I believed this was the first book of the series. But if I wanted to understand the story in the deep way I intended, I needed to explore the political events that led to Nekantor’s reign, to its tension and its fragility. I wanted to do more than just depict characters like Nekantor, Tagaret, Della, and Pyaras as actors in a political scenario. I needed to engage with them culturally and psychologically, and to understand them deeply. That required me to delve into their formative experiences, both personal and political. That was how I began to explore the stories that later became Mazes Of Power and Transgressions Of Power.

In the previous interview we did about Mazes Of Power, you called it, “sociological science fiction,” but also said, “it has features which readers may associate with both science fiction and fantasy.” Would you say the same of Inheritors Of Power?

Yes, indeed. The ideas of nobility and caste are often associated with fantasy, as are classical architecture and dress. They lend a fantasy-like flavor to these stories. However, political stories have always been able to stand on either side of the science fiction / fantasy divide; see for example Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (and many, many others). The world of The Broken Trust is one with electric lighting, sophisticated medical care, land hovercraft, and energy weapons, all of which stamp it as science fiction. I pay special attention to culture and how social structures affect human psychology and behavior, and I even weave in some subtle aspects of contemporary discourse. That is why it’s best described as sociological science fiction.

Moving on to the always popular questions about influence, are there any writers or specific stories that had a particularly big influence on Inheritors Of Power but not on Mazes Of Power and Transgressions Of Power?

Inheritors Of Power has layers upon layers of influence, because I first found the core concept for it when I was a teen, and it has changed so much over the course of its long development. One of the things I did early on was identify two of my favorite books and imagine placing it smack in between them. Those two books were Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness, and The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillip. I think it’s easy to see how I would want to bring in the kind of attention to cultural detail we see in the Le Guin. What I really wanted to bring in from The Changeling Sea was McKillip’s attention to color, mood, and richly evocative language choices.

How about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games?

I have far fewer non-literary influences. I think my interactions with visual media form a tapestry of symbolic patterns that I examine, critique, or subvert as I write my books.

You have degrees in linguistics and anthropology. Do you think your studies influenced Inheritors Of Power in any way?

Yes, they have an enormous influence. Inheritors Of Power is the book in which readers, for the first time, get to explore the full scope of Varin society. The people of Varin vary culturally by caste but also by city, and we can see some of those differences here. It influences how they act, how they move, how they dress, and how they speak. There are four distinct dialects from different cities that appear in Inheritors Of Power, and the Akrabitti undercaste have their own dialect also. None of them are borrowed from our own world. I would not be able to render any of this complexity without using what I have learned from linguistics and anthropology.

Now, along with genre, we also talked in the previous interview about your plans for The Broken Trust series, which you said it was going to be a five book series. Is that still the plan?

The Broken Trust is indeed, and still, a five book series.

Do you know what the other two books will be called and when they’ll be out?

I’ll be continuing with the theme of Power in the titles of books four and five, but the final titles have not yet been confirmed with my publisher, nor have the dates of publication.

So how often has someone suggested that book five should be The End Of Power?

You’re the first to suggest it. I think it’s unlikely to be that, though, since struggles for power never truly end; they only change.

I asked earlier if Inheritors Of Power had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But I’d like to flip things around, if I may, and ask if you think Inheritors, and the rest of The Broken Trust series, could work as a series of movies, a show, or a game?

The Broken Trust would work best as a streaming show, I believe. The current long-arc, multi-season format of TV shows like The Expanse, Shadow And Bone, or Bridgerton would allow the world of Varin and its characters to take on the dimension they would need to tell these stories most effectively.

And if someone wanted to make that show, who would you want them to cast in the main roles?

I do love trying to cast my characters.

I think Amita Suman [The Outpost] would be an amazing choice for Adon’s Catín because of her athleticism and intensity, and I think [Titan‘s] Ryan Potter would make an excellent Heir Adon. [Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s] Tom Holland has the height and also the versatility to play Nekantor’s Xinta, and my dream casting for adult Nekantor would be David Tennant [Doctor Who]. Tennant would surely be able to capture Nekantor’s intensity and also his pathos.

The character of Akrabitti Meetis is something of a mystery here, by necessity, but she’s incredibly pivotal to Inheritors Of Power. I was very impressed by Jessie Mei Li’s work in Shadow And Bone, and I would love to pick her for the role. I believe I would choose that show’s Freddy Carter to play Akrabitti Corbinan for similar reasons.

I would love to see Rebecca Ferguson play Della, because she was amazing as Lady Jessica in Dune. Octavia Spencer [Hidden Figures] has just the right presence to play Lady Selemei, and Freya Allan did an amazing job in The Witcher, and she’d make a terrific Little Selemei.

I could go on — I hope one day that I’ll have the opportunity to do this for real.

So, is there anything else you think people curious about Inheritors Of Powerneed to know?

Readers of the series have been asking me when they would learn more about Varin’s history, the origins of its caste system, and about the floating sparks called wysps. This is the book where all of that breaks open for the first time.

Juliette Wade Inheritors Of Power The Broken Trust Mazes Of Power Transgressions Of Power

Finally, if someone enjoys Inheritors Of Power and the other books in The Broken Trust series, what sociological science fiction novel would you recommend they read next?

I would recommend Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness. It’s a fascinating and heartbreaking novel that deals with politics and people and gender and many things that I love to articulate with. At the time of its publication, it was absolutely groundbreaking and changed the entire field of science fiction.



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