Posted on

What Faction of the Hexarchate Are You?

Hexarchate quiz

In Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire series the hexarchate Factions are waging war in the empire. And if you’re like us, you’ve been trying to figure out which faction of the hexarchate you might belong to if you were a part of that world. Well, wonder no more! For fans and newbies alike, we’ve put together this personality quiz to help you figure out, once and for all, where you might stand. 

Yoon Ha Lee’s new book Phoenix Extravagant is out October 15th, pre-order now!

Posted on

Raven Stratagem is out now!

The day has finally arrived! Finally, Raven Stratagem, the superb sequel to Yoon Ha Lee’s smash hit of the summer in 2016 Ninefox Gambit, is in the wild.

The highly anticipated Raven Stratagem has been garnering rave reviews all over the place, and has been on the receiving end of a huge amount of very well deserved buzz. 

In case you missed it, here’s what you can expect in Raven Stratagem:

Raven Stratagem
by Yoon Ha Lee

War. Heresy. Madness. 

Shuos Jedao is unleashed. The long-dead general, preserved with exotic technologies as a weapon, has possessed the body of gifted young captain Kel Cheris.

Now, General Kel Khiruev’s fleet, racing to the Severed March to stop a fresh enemy incursion, has fallen under Jedao’s sway. Only Khiruev’s aide, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan, is able to shake off the influence of the brilliant but psychotic Jedao.

The rogue general seems intent on defending the hexarchate, but can Khiruev—or Brezan—trust him? For that matter, can they trust Kel Command, or will their own rulers wipe out the whole swarm to destroy one man?


You can check out a few of the early (raving) reviews right here:

Posted on


Rahal • Nirai • Andan • Vidona • Shuos • Kel • Liozh

Emblem: The Mirrorweb

Motto: Every reflection is a truth

Colors: White and gold

Center of Government: Palace of Glass

The Liozh were one of the oldest factions, and the old heptarchate’s leaders. They consisted of the ethicists and philosophers, with an emphasis on the theory of proper governance. Their founder was not a philosopher but a refugee scientist who became involved with the politics of the nascent heptarchate. At their best, the Liozh provided for the welfare of the common citizens who did not hold faction membership and united the other factions with their vision. At their worst, they descended to petty political maneuvering and corruption.


Liozh entrance examinations often focused on nasty ethical dilemmas and asked applicants to suggest possible solutions to existing policy problems. More cunning applicants often wrote answers to appeal to the dominant schools of thought, but occasionally fresh insights sneaked through anyway. As cadets, they performed public service in the community. In theory, this brought them into contact with the citizenry and grounded them in the realities of heptarchate life. It worked better with some than with others.


The Liozh usually counted the Rahal and Andan as allies, the former because they shared a sense of interest in vigorous debate, the latter for their ability to negotiate compromises. They tended to disdain the Vidona and Kel for their rigidity and emphasis on obedience, and found the Shuos too unstable to rely on.


The Liozh faction’s exotic training included the mirrorweight, which allowed a Liozh to scry their own inner nature. Records of how this manifested are fragmentary and often contradictory. In particular, it did nothing to save the Liozh from their doom at the other six factions’ hands when they attempted to reform the heptarchate’s government.

Liozh Henezda

Liozh Henezda oversaw the heptarchate during a period of great civil unrest. An ambitious man, he was determined to reduce Liozh dependence on the Rahal and Andan to push through his policies. Not all his policies were poorly thought out, but he tended to be heavy-handed in implementing them. The Rahal and Andan, unhappy to be sidelined, joined forces against him and revolted, but Henezda had foreseen the development and shored up his ties with the Shuos and Kel, who assisted him in putting down the revolt. This worked in the short term, but civil disruptions were common throughout his reign. When an assassin killed him several years later, few mourned. The next few Liozh heptarchs emphasized diplomatic solutions rather more than he had.

Raven Stratagem is available for pre-order now!
Pre-order: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo|Rebellion Store

Posted on


Rahal • Nirai • Andan • Vidona • Shuos • Kel • Liozh

Emblem: The Ashhawk (or “Suicide Hawk”)

Motto: From every spark a fire

Colors: Black and gold

Center of Government: The Aerie

The Kel serve as the hexarchate’s military and specialize in kinetic operations. They tend to be conservative, conformist, and hierarchical.


The Kel’s greatest contribution to the hexarchate is their exotic training, comprising two techniques: formation instinct and formation channeling. Formation instinct is a form of brainwashing that induces a Kel to find solace in obeying orders from their superiors. It’s not foolproof—“crashhawks,” independent-minded Kel with defective formation instinct, can be found on occasion—but as a rule, the Kel military is built around the expectation of unquestioning obedience.

Formation channeling allows groups of Kel in specific geometric configurations to summon exotic effects, everything from force shields to fire lances. The most spectacular examples are suicide formations, in which the Kel in the unit burn up in order to destroy the enemy.


The stereotypical Kel recruit is strong, loyal, and brave. While many foreigners don’t realize it, the Kel are a volunteer army. Those who apply to the Kel academies understand that they may well be ordered to sacrifice themselves as formation fuel. Officers are additionally selected for a certain minimum of mathematical ability, to handle the rigors of calendrical warfare. Higher-ranking Kel recover some degree of autonomy, but Kel Command itself is composed of a hivemind, and is widely regarded to be psychotic thanks to centuries of ingrained paranoia.

Because of the possibility for abuse inherent in formation instinct, Kel are forbidden to have relationships with other Kel. As a result, they must marry outside the faction. Group marriages are the norm, especially among Kel who plan to raise children.


The Kel often get along with the Rahal, who share their conservative mindset, and grudgingly acknowledge that the Vidona carry out a necessary function in preserving the hexarchate. They also have strong ties to the Nirai due to their dependence on Nirai military innovations. While the Kel work closely with the Shuos, who provide strategic guidance and intelligence, the relationship is an ambivalent one at best; few Kel ever feel entirely easy around one of the foxes.

In recent times the faction the Kel despise the most, however, are the Andan. For one, the Andan role in pursuing diplomatic relations outside the hexarchate makes them suspect. The average Kel doesn’t distinguish much between heretics within the nation and foreigners without. They also dislike Andan flexibility and willingness to compromise on social mores.

Kel Dessenet

No one thought at first that Kel Dessenet was going to amount to anything. He scored in the bottom third at Kel Academy Secondary and was best-known, if the records can be believed, for cutting class to gamble. The death of a comrade during his first assignment sobered him, however, and from then on he became an exemplary officer, eventually rising to general. His career ended in tragedy or glory, depending on your point of view. In order to halt the advance of an invading fleet, he destroyed his entire swarm of over 300 warmoths in a suicide formation called Wildfire Over the Aerie. The maneuver worked, but Wildfire Over the Aerie has been proscribed by Kel Command ever since.

Raven Stratagem is available to pre-order now!
Pre-order: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo|Rebellion Store

Posted on


Rahal • Nirai • Andan • Vidona • Shuos • Kel • Liozh

Emblem: The Ninefox (or “Eyefox”)

Motto: The more eyes the better

Colors: Red and gold

Center of Government: The Citadel of Eyes

The Shuos are marked by two traits: fetishization of competence and a tendency to take the long view. The rest of the hexarchate knows them for their cunning and obsession with games of all kinds. It’s said that the only people a Shuos really hates are incompetent Shuos. A Shuos will never make a move on one gameboard when they can instead make one on three at the same time. The faction would be more dominant if not for its extreme instability: a Shuos hexarch usually claims the seat by assassinating their predecessor, and a good one is lucky to last a decade. The rest of the hexarchate puts up with the accompanying paroxysms mainly because they’re afraid of what would happen if the Shuos pointed themselves in the same direction for more than a generation.

The stereotype is that every Shuos has assassin training, but that’s the public image more than the reality. In truth, they are responsible for strategic planning and intelligence-gathering. Their work wouldn’t be possible without the less glamorous contributions of bureaucrats and analysts.


Shuos cadets are selected for their deviousness, interest in games, and pragmatism. Their academies make extensive use of games and game design in training. As a side-effect, Shuos often insist on “explaining” things to others using games instead of saying things straight out.


While individuals receive no faction-specific exotic training, the Shuos did contribute an exotic weapon, the shouter. Its effect is to drive people who hear it to submit to the conquerors’ sign. Considered crude and heavy-handed, it is rarely used anymore.


The Shuos are most closely allied with the Kel, although their view of the Kel is somewhat condescending: “You distract them with the guns so we can get the real work done.” They tolerate the Rahal and scorn the Vidona.

The Andan, however, the Shuos hate with a passion. This has its origins partly in history, as the two factions used to be one (it’s a matter of controversy whether the Shuos splintered from the Andan or the other way around). There’s also professional rivalry: Andan and Shuos specialties overlap a great deal, except the Andan have much better public relations. The Shuos, competitive by nature, find this infuriating. And even worse, while the Shuos are perennially juggling budget shortfalls, the Andan are rich and don’t mind showing it off.

Heptarch Shuos Estrekor

According to Shuos records, their first heptarch, Estrekor, was the older of two twins. She was fabled for her beauty, her odd sense of humor, and her refusal to take a lover, although she liked collecting poetry written in her honor. One surviving note, said to be in her hand, claimed that there is no entertainment so fine as bad poetry—and that all poetry is bad when it’s love poetry. Depending on whether you believe the Shuos or the Andan, her younger twin betrayed her and ran off to found the Andan, or saved the heptarchate from one of her treacherous plots and forced her out of the Andan to found the Shuos. A great deal of the bad blood between both factions dates back to that time.

Raven Stratagem is available for pre-order now!
Pre-order: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo|Rebellion Store

Posted on


Rahal • Nirai • Andan • Vidona • Shuos • Kel • Liozh

Emblem: The Stingray

Motto: Through blood we prevail

Colors: Green and bronze

Center of Government: Greentide Fortress

The Vidona enforce Doctrine in the hexarchate and punish or execute heretics on remembrance days. A few are doctors responsible for keeping heretics alive for torture. The Vidona are also responsible for education up to the age of seventeen. Some of them are true believers who are determined to maintain the system at any cost, while others enjoy being feared by the general populace.


Vidona are selected for inflexible loyalty and strong stomachs. Even the ones who do not go on to become torturers or enforcers are required to train in the blood arts; in an emergency, any Vidona may be called on to render a remembrance. Many of them are devoted to each other, as most of the other factions do not regard them highly, and they tend to marry within the faction.


A suitably trained Vidona can kill someone with a touch, reducing them to corpse-paper. The ability is mainly used ceremonially or, in rare circumstances, to render summary judgment. After all, a knife or gun or rope can do the job just as well. Most Vidona only use the technique under supervision during remembrances. Unauthorized use is punished by execution.

The Vidona practice paper-folding as an art, often sculpting deathtouch victims into elaborate folded sculptures. For that reason, it is one of the few arts that the Andan disdain. Even small children in the hexarchate recognize the sculptures, however beautiful, as ominous.


Of the other factions, the Vidona have the greatest respect for the Rahal, who are the source of Doctrine, and the Kel, for their loyalty. The medical branch of the Vidona maintains close ties to the Nirai. They regard both the Andan and the Shuos with suspicion, not least because of the two factions’ squabbling, which they consider borderline disloyal.

Vidona Oressa

Although she is scarcely known outside of her faction, Vidona Oressa is still spoken of with mixed respect and disdain. For most Vidona, she is a polarizing figure. Oressa came late to the Vidona after a career as a physician. Her greatest concern was fair treatment of detainees accused of heresy. She faced great resistance from Vidona leadership. However, her research into ways to extend the lives of torture victims won their reluctant respect, not least because she tested a number of techniques on herself. Oressa wore a mask and went heavily cloaked due to her many disfigurements, scorning to have her injuries repaired for aesthetic reasons. One of the hexarchate’s remembrances, a masquerade, persists to this day in her honor.

According to Shuos records, Oressa used her position to sneak some heretics out of captivity and to freedom in foreign lands. The Vidona dismiss this as propaganda; and no one takes a Shuos at their word anyway.

Raven Stratagem is available for pre-order now!
Pre-order: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo|Rebellion Store

Posted on


Rahal • Nirai • Andan • Vidona • Shuos • Kel • Liozh

Emblem: The Kniferose

Motto: Petal-sweet, thorn-sharp

Colors: Blue and silver

Center of Government: The City of Inverted Gardens

The Andan dominate culture and finance. Most of the dramas that are so popular with hexarchate citizens are Andan creations. The Andan are also responsible for first contact and diplomacy with foreign powers.


The expectation is that prospective Andan are beautiful, or wealthy, or create beautiful things—all three, for preference. While nepotism is frowned upon in the other factions, among the Andan it is seen as only good sense. Andan often marry other Andan. This way, resources can be concentrated in the hands of known and trusted families. Classes at the Andan academies focus on comportment, ways to build wealth, and the arts. Perhaps the most notorious class is Introduction to Seduction. The Shuos teach their own version of the class, but Andan-certified courtesans are widely regarded to be superior to those trained by the Shuos.


Enthrallment is the Andan faction’s most potent technique. It allows an Andan to hypnotize a social inferior in physical proximity and bind them to their will. The effect diminishes with repeated use; nevertheless, the threat of its employment often drives Andan to elaborate ploys in search of greater status.


The Andan consider the Vidona to be an essential tool for maintaining social control, not least because the Vidona’s blunt methods contrast usefully with the Andan’s more subtle ones. The Nirai are easily manipulated and no threat, while the Rahal are too wrapped up in the letter of the law to adapt to circumstances. The Kel are a hammer in search of a nail, but even the Andan acknowledge the usefulness of the military. Their real rivals are the Shuos, whose spheres of interest overlap theirs. Andan strategies for dealing with the Shuos range from trying to outmaneuver them to outspending them.

Andan Zhe Navo

Although best known as a rare Andan general, Andan Zhe Navo started her career as a poet. She specialized in memorial verses to commemorate the heptarchate’s military victories, and as such had a reasonable familiarity with Kel practice. In modern memory she is feted as one of the hexarchate’s greatest historical generals, and at the time she retired even the Shuos respected her. There is speculation that she rivaled the notorious Shuos Jedao in skill, but the two never crossed paths; she died of old age during Jedao’s childhood.

Her early career was rockier than most people realize. She was given command of a Kel brigade and tasked with putting down a heresy, not due to her military acumen—she was not yet established—but because her older brother, an Andan courtier, had offended a powerful official who also bore a grudge against the Kel. It was expected that Navo would suffer a humiliating loss. Instead, she prevailed against the heretics and negotiated a successful peace.

Navo continued in military service partly because she had earned the respect of the Kel, and partly to redeem her brother’s honor. Historians speculate that her scapegrace brother used Navo’s growing prestige to further his own political career, with decidedly uncertain results. If Navo ever resented this, no record of it remains.

Raven Stratagem is available for pre-order now!
Pre-order: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo|Rebellion Store

Posted on


Rahal • Nirai • Andan • Vidona • Shuos • Kel • Liozh

Emblem: The Voidmoth

Motto: Every sky is full of stars

Colors: Black and silver

Center of Government: Station Mavi 514-11

The Nirai are the hexarchate’s engineers, scientists, doctors, and, occasionally, applied mathematicians. Alone of the six factions, the Nirai are headed by a false hexarch, who provides cover for the true hexarch; even most Nirai aren’t aware of the latter’s existence. The true hexarch is a recluse who prefers to allow the false hexarch to administer the faction on his behalf so that he can pursue private research projects. Nevertheless, he does pay attention to what’s going on. High-ranking Nirai who displease him have been known to disappear.


The faction as a whole tends to be apolitical, as they select for technical ability rather than belief in Doctrine. Professions aside, the Nirai are the most heterogeneous in outlook.


The mothdrive is one of the best-known Nirai technologies, as it permits fast travel between star systems. Unfortunately, it relies on exotics for its operation, so voidmoths are also equipped with more conventional maneuver drives for travel in hostile territory. The voidmoths are biotechnological in origin, and the Nirai are engaged in a long-term breeding/genetic engineering project to create ever more powerful drives.

Another Nirai innovation is psych surgery, which is used to alter people’s personalities. The technique has limitations; drastic personality changes require the work of a skilled psych surgeon and take correspondingly more time. It can also be used to suppress memories. Kel formation instinct is an outgrowth of psych surgery designed to work on masses of soldiers predisposed to obedience rather than being tuned to the individual.


The Nirai work well with the Kel and Shuos, who have an unquenchable thirst for new weapons, cryptosystems, and other such technologies. They also maintain ties to the medical branch of the Vidona. They don’t interact much with the other factions. The usual attitude is something like “Please leave us alone so we can attend to our experiments, thank you very much.”

Heptarch Nirai Esfarel

Esfarel started out not as a Nirai but a Rahal. However, as a cadet he attended Nirai Academy Prime for a year to study under one of the instructors, a renowned mathematician. By then he had begun to chafe at the overly legalistic mindset of most Rahal. In his last year, he transferred to Nirai Academy.

Esfarel’s combination of brilliance and administrative ability meant that he rose quickly among the ranks of the Nirai. When he was appointed to succeed as heptarch, few objected. For three decades, the Nirai flourished under his guidance: the first mothdrives came into being, and the resulting wave of expansion contributed greatly to Nirai prestige. The high calendar in its modern form first appeared under his reign, although it is not now clear which researcher or researchers were responsible for the system.

Heptarch Esfarel developed the immortality device known as the black cradle and was the first to test it. Unfortunately, a flaw in the device resulted in his death, and leadership of the faction passed to his protégé, who vanished shortly afterward.

Raven Stratagem is available for pre-order now!
Pre-order: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo|Rebellion Store

Posted on


Nirai • Andan • Vidona • Shuos • Kel • Liozh

Emblem: The Scrywolf (or “Execution Wolf”)

Motto: Many lenses, one mind

Colors: Gray and bronze

Center of Government: Wolf Hall

The Rahal began as the heptarchate’s magistracy, with broad powers both to investigate crime and to sentence wrongdoers, according to laws decreed by the Liozh councils. They specialize in “ordinary” transgressions rather than heresy, which is the domain of the Vidona. When the Liozh announced their intention to overturn the existing government in favor of a democratic system, the Rahal were one of the factions who revolted. After the Liozh were destroyed for their temerity, the Rahal claimed leadership of the new hexarchate and began to oversee the welfare of common citizens.


Applicants are selected for devotion to the law, excellent memories, and tolerance for a highly communal lifestyle. As cadets, young Rahal learn oratory to interpret the hexarchate’s legal code. Rahal councils, modeled after the old Liozh councils, operate on a consensus basis, and the ability to construct a strong argument and defend it is necessary to survive. The Rahal are also responsible for maintaining the high calendar, not least because the lengths of days on inhabited planets or moons often require localized corrections to accommodate humans’ diurnal cycles. While a Nirai invented the high calendar, it is the Rahal who do the work of keeping it updated. As a result, the Rahal also snap up a large percentage of the hexarchate’s mathematicians.


The Rahal faction’s greatest innovation is the technique for scrying someone’s dreams for signifier responses. This isn’t quite as good as mind-reading—although there have always been rumors—but it allows Rahal inquisitors to scrape clues out of someone’s subconscious. Up to six inquisitors can join together to strengthen the effect; a full hex is normally reserved for matters of dire urgency. Scrying is not infallible, as some individuals have the ability to mask their signifiers.

The Rahal also maintain swarms of lensmoths, a specialized type of voidmoth that has the effect of correcting the local calendar from any heretical deviations. While useful against minor heresies, major rot knocks them out of alignment quickly. The Rahal insist on keeping them as a symbol of their mission.


Rahal allies include the Vidona, who suppress heresy, and the Kel, due to a shared belief in community and conservatism. Their relations are also good with the Nirai since both are invested in the mathematics of the hexarchate’s state religion. How well they get along with the Shuos depends on current Shuos leadership; the Rahal acknowledge the importance of the foxes’ role, but are troubled by their ruthlessness.

Rahal Ienora

Magistrate Rahal Ienora recognized early on that requiring everyone to adhere to the high calendar would result in a lot of cranky people on planets and moons with day-cycles that inconveniently failed to conform to an artificial system. She pushed for a compromise that would allow people to live according to local day-cycles and observe specially calculated remembrances that tune their homes to high calendar norms. It’s clunky, but the hexarchate’s citizens are so used to the workaround that most of them don’t think twice about it.

Raven Stratagem is available for pre-order now!
Pre-order: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo|Rebellion Store