From a major new debut author in epic fantasy comes the first book in a trilogy where action, intrigue, and magic collide. The Justice of Kings introduces an unforgettable protagonist destined to become a fantasy icon: Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an Emperor’s Justice, who is a detective, judge, and executioner all in one. But these are dangerous times to be a Justice…. 

The Empire of the Wolf simmers with unrest. Rebels, heretics, and powerful patricians all challenge the power of the Imperial throne. 

Only the Order of Justices stands in the way of chaos. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is the most feared Justice of all, upholding the law by way of his sharp mind, arcane powers, and skill as a swordsman. At his side stands Helena Sedanka, his talented protégé, orphaned by the wars that forged the Empire. 

When the pair investigates the murder of a provincial aristocrat, they unearth a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of Imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt and Helena must make a choice: Will they abandon the laws they’ve sworn to uphold, in order to protect the Empire?


1. The old writers’ adage “the first million words are practice” was actually pretty accurate for me

Following the sale of my Empire of the Wolf Trilogy to Orbit—very much the realisation of a 20 year dream—I did a little retrospective for myself, putting together a list of all the novels I had ever written, their word counts, and a sort of self-appraisal as to what I had taken away from each book and “phase” in my writing journey. It was a fun and interesting exercise, and I learnt two things: the first was that I really hit my ‘default narrative voice’ at around half a million words; the second was that I wrote and sold The Justice of Kings not long after the big one million (about 1.3). For me, at least, the million-ish-word mark represented a fairly stark shift in my writing fortunes.

2. The traditional publishing process has (so far) involved a lot of hanging around

My agent did forewarn me of this very early on in our relationship, but I was still surprised at just how much of being a debut trad-pubbed author (and I’m only speaking from my perspective as the author) involves entire weeks and sometimes months of very little activity. Exciting developments, such as getting a draft book cover artwork or the first blurbs or a marketing plan, are spikes of engagement in an otherwise lengthy and unyielding radio silence. Having previously self-published a few things, and having had full control over that process, this was a difficult thing to get used to. It’s taken a while for me to stop relentlessly and fruitlessly refreshing my Gmail inbox!

3. I enjoy reading and writing interesting character development over any number of exploding spaceships and collapsing empires (but I love those other things too!)

The Justice of Kings was the first novel I wrote in which I really focused on the individual characters, their motivations, their interactions and messy dynamics, and their development up and down the Mass Effect Paragon/Renegade spectrum. I found that for all the sword fights and murder victims and political manoeuvrings and beheadings and immolations and everything else that is in the Justice of Kings, it really was those messy, interesting dynamics between characters that hooked my interest as a writer more than anything else.

4. The best world building comes from what you don’t see

For me personally, it’s the throwaway in-world references to public figures, holidays and historical events that gives The Empire of the Wolf its verisimilitude. Dan Abnett gave a great example of this in an interview when he referred to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s original reference to the ‘Clone Wars’ in A New Hope, decades before prequel trilogy was released—a tiny, throwaway line but that did a huge amount of work in building Obi-Wan’s backstory and the wider Star Wars meta. Little titbits like that can add a lot of flavour and give the world a lived-in feel.

5. I’ve only really just become comfortable with using allegory

The Justice of Kings is the first novel I’ve written in which I really used the fantasy secondary world as a vehicle to explore modern-day themes and ideas. It’s the first time as a writer I’ve felt able to do this in a way that I hope is effective and nuanced. My previous attempts (few and far between) have been rather ham-fisted and I think that it’s something that, like anything, comes with experience and practice.


Richard Swan was born in North Yorkshire and spent most of his early life on Royal Air Force bases in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. After studying law at the University of Manchester, Richard was Called to the Bar in 2011. He subsequently retrained as a solicitor specialising in commercial litigation. When he is not working, Richard can be found in London with his wonderful wife Sophie, where they attempt to raise, with mixed results, their two very loud sons. 

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