Title: Empress of a Thousand Skies
Author: Rhoda Belleza
Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies, #1
Release Date: February 7th 2017
Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.
The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne—and her revenge.
Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.
Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.
The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding—even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.
In this exhilarating debut for fans of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy, Rhoda Belleza crafts a powerful saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
Crown Princess Rhiannon is only days away from her coronation. Soon she will be the ruler of the galaxy and she will finally be able to avenge the death of her family, a tragedy that left her the last surviving Ta’an. However the person responsible for the death of Rhee’s family isn’t content with letting her live long enough to take her rightful place as Empress. Attacked by one of the people closest to her, someone she loved and believed she could trust, Rhee realises her life is still in grave danger, and to survive long enough to get her revenge she needs to put her faith in the hands of the Fontisian who saved her.
With the Crown Princess believed to be dead the blame for Rhee’s assassination falls on the shoulders of Alyosha, a Wraetan and a scapegoat designed to bring war back to the galaxy after nearly a decade of tentative peace. Aly is forced on the run when ‘proof’ turns up of his involvement in Rhee’s death, he flees across the galaxy but with the whole galaxy looking for him there’s no where he can go that will be safe.
As Rhee and Dahlen chase after the man responsible for Rhee’s family’s deaths, revenge at the forefront of the Crown Princesses mind above her own safety, Aly finds himself running towards a goal instead of running away. He wants to prove his own innocence and believes he has the key to clearing his name.
However the further Rhee and Aly travel, the more they discover about and the war that is edging ever closer, and the more they realise Rhee’s death and Aly’s role in it are only part of the story. There is a much more sinister plan in action which could put everyone’s lives at risk.
Despite only giving this book three stars the low rating isn’t because of the plot. The story was fast paced, engaging, and kept me hooked as I waited to find out what would happen to Rhee and Aly. In terms of the story this is one of the best sci-fi books I’ve read, and not a page went by without some kind of threat Rhee or Aly need to overcome. The downside for me was the character development.
Rhiannon has been trained ever since her family were killed to one day take the throne. She knows how to fight and defend herself, and knows how to rule. However despite all this she seemed more like a child than a one-day Empress. She is stubborn to the point of risking her own life to get her own way, and she acts as if she knows everything.
Rhee formed an opinion when she was a young child of what happened to her family the day they died, and with no further evidence or proof believed wholly in that opinion ignoring the possibility that there could be anything bigger at play. That seems to be the way she lives her whole life. She sticks to the opinions once she forms them, and most of them seem to be without any proof or rationalisation behind them.
Alyosha was a character whose POV I enjoyed reading a little more. As a Wraetan he is scorned by most of the galaxy, judged based on his race and the colour of his skin, and he does everything she can to be the perfect soldier. As one of the stars of The Revolutionary Boys Aly believes he can use his fame to prove to the galaxy there is more to the Wraetan’s than the stereotypes they have formed.
When he is framed for murder Aly’s only thought is for his survival, his whole world is turned upside down and while he made some choices I couldn’t wrap my head around, for the most part I enjoyed reading his POV a lot more than Rhee’s.
The only issue I had with Aly were the relationships he formed. Throughout the book we see Aly with two of his closest friends, brothers in all but blood we’re told, and with a girl he meets while fleeing across the galaxy. Despite being told how close Aly was with both Vincent and Jeth I didn’t see any evidence of that in his actions, in fact it seemed like he had more feelings for a girl he just met than he did two people he essentially grew up with.
Again the world building was another thing Rhoda Belleza did really well in Empress of a Thousand Skies. There were a lot of planets to explore, all with their own unique people and cultures. From Aly’s race, the Wraetan’s, who became refugees after their home was destroyed in the war and who seem to be scorned by the rest of the galaxy, to the Fontisian’s and their religion which worships one God the way Rhee worships her ancestors, and to Rhee’s family, the Ta’an, who’s cursed history stretches back generations full of blood and violence. There were no info dumps of text explaining everything, the world building was naturally written into the story giving us just enough information to help us understand the characters and their different motives but not enough to overwhelm.
When it comes to the plot and the world building in this book, Empress of a Thousand Skies could have easily been a five star read for me. Both aspects were well-developed and well-paced, drawing me into the world and the adventure. The characters are what let this book down, I just couldn’t look past the amount of times I found myself asking, ‘what the hell is going on?’ as their actions played out.
What did you think of Empress of a Thousand Skies? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.