Category Archives: The Sovereign Hand

All info and updates on the forthcoming novel, The Sovereign Hand.

Recent reviews, scandalous gossip

“An epic adventure of High Fantasy and High Stakes;
deserves a place next to Pratchett or Goodkind.” -Nebula Books

Nebula Books has reviewed The Sovereign Hand. It was a positive review, but more importantly, it was detailed and really engaged with the perceived strengths and weaknesses, which I  greatly appreciate. Gadammit, if I don’t love me some feedback to mull with me wine!

Under-utilised and forced elements of worldbuilding; Late arrival of an antagonist; Unanswered questions and loose ends to finish. Check. Check. Check. Fair enough. I can see why it might read that way. I knew what I was doing, all deliberate. All by design.

So, I want to briefly discuss why this design, but not to rebut the review, which I accept 100%. It is a thoughtful, well-written response to the text, and this is valuable. Everyone reads differently, yet I am certain that other potential readers will interpret The Sovereign Hand similarly to the reviewer. Just as other readers will not, and have not, because the text is rich enough for people to make meaning in a variety of ways.

The first, easy response, is that many lingering questions of plot and redundant detail in The Sovereign Hand might be answered by a return to the text, whereon the reader can make new connections in fuller knowledge of where things are headed. I can almost guarantee it rewards any second read. But this is not the whole answer.

More significant is the fact that while carrying its own story, I also burdened The Sovereign Hand with the duty of being the base slab on a pyramid comprised of two further novels, forming one larger, deeper field of text. It was a big ask, and a risk, and I accept that my compromises made the shape of the text unconventional and a less streamlined read. I just had to hope that despite the potential costs, in this text and the bigger picture, the benefits paid off.
So from this review, 7/10 tells me, okay, there’s enough in there for this reader, and that helps inform what I try to get away with next time. (Writers always want to get away with something. You just hope to be elegant about it.) My hope for this time is that the review might encourage others to get the book out of the Have-Not-Finished pile.


I will admit one query from the review, over the criteria for “overwritten”. To me that’s a technical term, and on a technical level, even The Sovereign Hand’s most colourful passages do parse as “trim” or “lean”.
More likely this is a reference to style. The Sovereign Hand occasionally affects a bombastic style to complement the themes and narrative, and tends to illustrate in close or particular detail – then, fine, that is a matter of personal taste.


In the end, everything in TSH is there for a purpose, and any inelegance at least leaves the story perched, ready for take-off in Book 2 – hence the scandalous gossip. With the purchase of Steam Press by Eunoia, I’ve started drafting the following, and final, two books. Book 2 has a title and an outline.

And I’m really excited about it.


Got your own thoughts on The Sovereign Hand? Leave a review at Amazon or Goodreads





What happens next.

A fitting enough title: the last line from The Sovereign Hand. What does happen next?

Just the asking begs a dozen more questions, a deeply personal interrogation that has kept the authorly part of my brain occupied with reflection, conjecture, and outright battle with a few heaving chunks of reality for several months. Even now I’m not sure of the full answer, but I’m more sure of what I want to say.  What to make explicit, implicit, ambiguous. Or totally leave out.

The easy part is, yes, I know what is next in the story. I wrote The Sovereign Hand to be coherent and complete in itself as a stand-alone novel… for myriad reasons. But any reader can see there is clearly a larger story, the transformations of Alexa and Tanner having passed through only one, naive, revolution, there having been much foreshadowing, and other characters still to be fully revealed.  As such there are two, and only two, more books in this wider arc,  much like Raymond E. Feist’s first novels (Magician/Silverthorn/Darkness at Sethanon) or even the original Star Wars Trilogy: the original, and then a duology.

So will I write them?

The trickier part. I really want to. My love of the story drove me through the writing and publishing of The Sovereign Hand, and would do so again. The difference being, I was younger, unmarried, childless, and cheerily sans career back then, not to mention full of “optimism” about how quality writing – plus a more mainstream enthusiasm for “fantasy” (LotR/GoT style) – could overcome the typical prejudice towards a story featuring the occasional goblin or scales and horns.

And so things are no longer so simple, and I know a few things better. Significantly that I can not expect an interested reception from the NZ “book scene” if it looks like fantasy. And to be fair, the only reason I thought that might happen is that Steam Press had already established itself as a quality publisher: we thought that bridge had been crossed. By 2014, though, the “scene” wasn’t so welcoming to Steam Press publications, whether for review or on shelves.  Large volume of a tight selection of works is now the prevailing business model, and it flows from publishers, to booksellers and into which texts are selected for review. All informed by data on who can actually afford to buy books from booksellers in our depressed political economy. The tastes of a older, conservative, wealthy demographic reins supreme.
So, no immediate hopes of springing from NZ to Australia to other international publishers and thereby funding my next novel – although Steam Press may well be front-and-centre at Frankfurt this year, where genre sell well.

To the internet, then, where the conventional theory it seems is your first novel is the peanuts-grade marketing for your second novel in a whole series of novels you can pump out featuring your world and characters which your readership has hooked into. Which I can appreciate, but ain’t what I’m doing (this time, at least) and it stings me like a fissure in my arse (H/T: Maury Ballstein, Zoolander) cos its kinda the inverse of how I was hoping it would work. I know. Boo hoo.

So with that dubious fucking incentive, will I write a follow-up to The Sovereign Hand?
Yes. You can never be read enough, but besides its inability to help me fund a second novel, I’m really happy with how the first one turned out.
Do I know when? No. It is even possible I will write other things first, maybe some short stories set in the same world. Family and work will keep time at a premium this year, and we have a nation-state falling to bits around us. Time to start putting the P back into participatory democracy.

And this site? I’ll always have something to say, including on The Sovereign Hand. Next time I’ll write a bit about the novel’s successes, and may indulge in what it’s “about”.

Mostly though, I think I’ll veer towards reviewing for a bit. Works of note, hidden gems. NZ books, yes, but not only, and especially those with something to say. Starting with an appraisal of the NZ Book Awards longlist for 2016. I was, of course, eligible (and not nominated) so reading the chosen works this year has been interesting… to say the least.


Interviewed by: Dab of Darkness

Dab of DarknessProlific reviewer and interviewer, Susan Voss at Dab of Darkness, posed me some searching questions recently, and my answers on The Sovereign Hand, genre, and writing in general are up now for everyone’s reading enjoyment.

I like Dab of Darkness. I like that her interview questions have a useful focus, yet allow the scope for the author to go to places they care about.

I also appreciate the wide range of books Susan covers. She does not truck the easy review route of established names, or churning the stuff being pushed en masse by the big publishers. This gives readers a chance to explore their interests more widely. Her review format allows her to be positive, but not uncritical of the texts she reads.

As far as reviews go, Dab of Darkness does on a huge scale what I’d like to do on a tiny corner boutique scale here. Hopefully I’ll have some of that on the horizon.

Sir Julius Vogel Awards – shortlist is out, convention ahead

SJV award - shiny!The Sir Julius Vogel Awards shortlist for 2015 has been published, and The Sovereign Hand has made it on to the final ballot for “Best Novel”, and also scored me a place on “Best New Talent” (cue a becoming blush).

Many thanks to those who showed support for my work and made this happen.

Now it’s up to the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand as they vote at the annual convention, held this year at Easter in Rotorua.

Happily, I’m already attending as part of a panel discussion on “The World of Worldbuilding” – the approaches, the whys and the where-in-the-hells of creating alternate realities. Right up my alley, so yeah, kinda jazzed for that.

It’s still possible to pick up memberships for the convention (which also gets you a vote). So if you’re in the area at Easter, sign up, and stop on by.

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards – nominations open

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are held each year to celebrate the best in New Zealand sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. The Sovereign Hand is eligible for 2015, and any person, or body corporate, can nominate.

Yes – even you!

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of NZ will vote on the final winner, but the number of nominations help with getting short-listed. This system provides a pretty level playing field for NZ authors and their readers and supporters across the world.

So if you’ve read and enjoyed The Sovereign Hand, and hope to see more in the future, or would just like to show your support, nomination could not be easier:

  1. Open an email to
  2. Copy and paste the field below into the email.
  3. Enter your own NAME and CONTACT EMAIL (or other contact details) for each category. (This is important, to ensure the nomination is valid.)

Only one nomination can be sent per email, but if you would like to nominate another work here is the SJV’s list of some other eligible works.

Thanks for your support.

– SJV Nomination –
Nomination category: Best novel 

Title of work: The Sovereign Hand
Name of Author: Paul Gilbert
What the work is: Novel
Year of First Release: 2014
Publisher: Steam Press
How to contact the publisher/author:
Genre: Fantasy
Your contact details: ………..(important)

Send to:

Reading at Kilbirnie Library, Thursday 25/9

First big date since the launch. Kilbirnie Library is having a Science Fiction/Fantasy reading evening on Thursday the 25th. That’s this week! Other great NZ writers reading are Dan Rabarts, Lee Murray and Paul Mannering. So for anyone devoted enough to want to hear me read from The Sovereign Hand, and maybe a bit of chitter-chatter on the side, drop on by.

For more on these authors, try
Lee Murray –
Paul Mannering –
Dan Rabarts –

Also, I’m reliably informed there should be an article about me and The Sovereign Hand in this weekend’s Dominion Post and (I guess) Christchurch Press. Blush.

Writing in fantasy

One thing I spoke about at the launch was my experience in discussing the book with someone for the first time.
One type of response was polite interest, knowing that I had a degree in boring old politics – then the listener perking up when they heard it was a fantasy.
The other was the reverse of this – effectively, if you want to write something important, why fantasy?

Well consider the alternative, if I set a story about personal and state power and the nature of authority, in our “real world. In New York. Moscow. Baghdad. Just from those words, the reader immediately summons an entire pre-constructed world of meaning full of assumptions. Literally, cultural baggage. If the author’s reality and the reader’s do not match, communication is affected. In fact, viewpoints may differ so greatly the only transmission of ideas might be the book flying, thrown by the reader across the room.

By writing and reading in fantasy, it’s like we make a pact, giving each other permission to imagine and question in ways that might conflict with everyday assumptions. This is not so important with what I call “Tree of Life” stories; but it is essential when you are deconstructing big ideas around the “Book of the World”. Our world resists deconstruction, so you have to take that task elsewhere. If I make that new world welcoming to the reader, don’t disrupt with too-intricate world-building, tap into the familiar, keep to what I know is true, I get a chance at a clean slate, and maybe the reader can discover something new.

And also have some epic quests and cool monsters along the way.

Book launched and firing

Thu726088bd-fcec-4a6c-906e-5df5646e40cfrsday’s been and gone, and the book is away. Photos forthcoming. There was a good turnout for the launch, despite the cutting Wellington weather that night, and fun was had, books signed and sold. Stephen said some fine things about the shenanigans between publisher and author over the last couple of years. I unloaded with my undiminished thanks, to Stephen, and particularly my wife Adele, who has been my absolute rock these past ten years, making this happen. The Sovereign Hand couldn’t have been without her.

So the book is now officially everywhere in NZ, Unity Books, Whitcoulls, etc; just ask for it by name. Also, Steam Press will deliver free of charge, and has links to all the other methods of purchase.
Print copies will be available for overseas buyers any day now through Amazon, which also hosts the Kindle version, of course.

The book and I have had good press, with another interview and a feature article going to print this week, and a public reading on the horizon next month. More details (links) when they come to hand, and I expect more reviews soon too.

First review, latest excerpt, free sample – and how you can get it

Book launch details

August 21 is when you can get your hands on a copy of The Sovereign Hand.
I’m still talking with the publisher about pre-orders and getting e-versions out early, but the launch is at Matchbox Gallery 166 Cuba St, Wellington. An elegant space. Frivolity commences at 5:30pm, with some palaver from me and Stephen, and me reading something, probably from Part I (see below – I’m open to suggestions).  There will be nibbles, drink, and of course copies to purchase, at a special price. Just show up on the night.

Or just grab it from Amazon,, etc., or all the usual bookstores after that.


First review
The Sovereign Hand
has also had it first (frankly, glowing) review, from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of NZ. Steam Press have a quote (the full review isn’t up on the SFFANZ website yet). It is pleasing that someone who knows fantasy rates TSH as “possibly one of the best works of fantasy ever published in New Zealand”; but as the reviewer notes, it’s the particulars that make that true:

“[The] setting is quite unusual, an amalgam of High Fantasy and Steampunk, where science and magic both work… And not just that, it is a socially and politically evolved magical society where non-human sentients like gobelins, drakes and Taureans are being steadily integrated into the Primacy… Gilbert has dared to be different, to do the difficult thing, and by and large, he succeeds.”

This echoes what Bernard Beckett has said of the novel: “This is a fantasy that doesn’t simply draw a world for the purposes of its story, but rather draws its story from the richness of the world Gilbert has created”.

Critical feedback so far: people get it. I’ll post a link when the full SFFANZ review comes online.


Excerpts, & The Sovereign Hand (Part I: Thorn) – for free
If that leaves you wanting want to read more,  the major United StatesSFF site,, has posted a new excerpt from the novel. This makes for fantastic exposure and is a big tick for The Sovereign Hand’s value in a crowded and competitive global market.’s excerpt comes from Part I: Thorn, which Rise and Shine also comes from – and now Steam Press has the whole of Part I: Thorn available as a free download. Around 50,000 words! So if you enjoy the excerpts, I guarantee Part 1 has more goodness for you. And if you really like that, please share it around.

A stir of activity (all things considered)

It would be lovely to be in a state of 100% excitement, focus and organisation in the lead up to launch of the The Sovereign Hand‘s on Aug 21; but my Dad is dying. He has Motor Neuron Disease. I’ve known since February and ever since I’ve been arranging to move down to Wellington, to be closer to him and for him to be closer to his only grandchild. Waiting for employment to fall into place hasn’t been working for a little while now. Dad’s health has deteriorated sharply, so me and mine are in the final days of bundling our things for storage and shuffling off to some temporary digs in the capital, somewhere nearby where I can imagine my daughter and I can see a bit of Dad each day, or whatever share of his dwindling time we can get.

Hence the slightly spotty updates around here. I haven’t , especially for an election year, been able to publish much of anarchically democratic value, with my best and most measured analysis reserved for internal monologues while doing the dishes. But I have managed to keep up with some reading, including, of late, Lawrence Patchett’s short stories (I Got His Blood On Me), rereading Voltaire’s Candide (among other of his stories), and James S.A. Corey’s Star Wars novel Honor Among Thieves. (Decent effort at characterising Han Solo, very good story – will have to check out their Leviathan Wakes space opera.) I also want to read Ledgard’s Submergence and Jim Crace’s Harvest –  oh, and Ancillary Justice pretty soon. At some point I’ll have to start being particular about my reading, furnishing the mind for my next project.

Because in actual Sovereign Hand news, the script goes to the printers on Sunday. Done. Finally. An end to my eternal tinkering, after 10 damn years. The next big date will be July 21, when Part One: Thorn will be released as a free download, along with other exciting happenings on that day too. Before then, I’ll be sharing some background to the book addressing the burning question: “Top Ten reasons you should buy (and read) The Sovereign Hand”. Because that’s why you’re all here, right?

But that’ll be a couple of weeks off. First things first.