Empress of a Thousand Skies
By: Rhoda Belleza
Publication Date: February 7th, 2017
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.
A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.
I won this ARC at YALLfest, and have been waiting for the point where my to-read shelf cleared enough for me to not feel guilty about reading this. But then again, this was pretty high on my to-read list…space operas, lost princesses, and rambunctious chases across the galaxy all spelled fun reading.
I do have a minor quibble with the synopsis…reading it, you think that Aly and Rhee are actually going to meet at some point in the book, which never happens (they cross paths at one point in a super-vague way when they’re both in disguise). The synopsis feels like obvious pandering to the group of readers who are going to want romance, and doesn’t do justice to the actual plot of the book.
Maybe because of this, I had a bit of a difficult time getting into the book. Rhee was, as everyone kept pointing out, an idiot sixteen-year-old girl who thought she knew everything and was always right. And Aly, as if to contrast, was the sort of person who would happily have floated under the radar the rest of his life. But once I did get into their stories, I was hooked. Both of them were, in different ways, vital to the story, and I found it fascinating that despite never meeting, their stories are inextricably bound together.
Partially because of this, the plot is pretty epic. You have endless twists and turns, like the deliberation about who was responsible for the death of Rhee’s family, or the underlying creepiness of everyone’s mind computers and how they can be used for Bad Things. Everyone is jumping around constantly, to the point that I got a bit confused as to which planet was which, and who was going to war with who, and who was even doing what at one point. But when the plot does slow down, it’s usually in order to really give oomph to some sort of devastatingly well-done scene that changes the entire game.
What I really craved, though, was more backstory and world-building. I know it’s not usually a priority, but I thought it would have helped with some of my near-constant confusion. In addition, Rhoda sprinkled so many little details through Empress of a Thousand Skies that she never explained. I wanted to know more about how many of the people in the Empire were humanoid, what interspecies people looked like, who these mysterious tattooed monks were, and why a TV star had the political clout to influence the empire.
That was my only real issue with the book, especially because it seemed that the author knew so much about what she was creating, but shared so little of it with us. But this is a common complaint among sci-fi books with me–I want to really be immersed in the world. Otherwise, this book was a highly satisfactory read, and I’d recommend it to anyone in the mood for a fast-paced, twisty, space opera.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. An advanced copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.