2020’s The Bone Shard Daughter is the first volume in Andrea Stewart’s projected Drowning Empire secondary-universe fantasy trilogy. It’s just published!
The Emperor protects his people from the Alanga, godlike beings who once plagued the Empire. All he asks is total obedience and a small token of his subjects’ gratitude. A trifle, really, just a small shard of skull bone, which grants the Emperor access to their life energy. He uses that to power the automatons through which he rules the Empire. Otherwise his subjects are free to pay their taxes and do as they are told until such time as they die from the side-effects of being used as a living battery.
The Emperor is growing old and it isn’t clear what will happen when he dies.