Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies #1
Published by Razorbill on February 7th 2017
Genres: Action & Adventure, Diversity, Science Fiction, Romance, War & Military, Young Adult
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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.
What would you do if everyone you trust proves untrustworthy? This is the question Rhee, the Crown Princess of the Ta’an dynasty of Kalusia, grapples with throughout Empress of a Thousand Skies. Told between alternating third person views of Rhiannon and Alyosha, or Aly, Empress of a Thousand Skies is filled with action from start to finish. The plot is constantly moving, and discoveries being revealed. The one thing I had with this book was that it was a bit hard for me to quite connect to the characters and become involved with their actions. I liked them, to be sure, but I was more than a bit frustrated with Rhee and her plans. Nonetheless, this book brings you across the galaxy as both characters fight their way towards freedom of different kinds.
Although the story is told between Rhee and Aly, the characters never quite meet in the book. Each has their own focus and mission. However, the way Belleza transitions between the alternating storylines is pretty smooth – even if most of the time the chapters end with a cliffhanger. I think this keeps the constant action and plot rolling, making for a never-boring time in this space adventure. The politics of the story is also simple and easy to get used to, making more room for discoveries on the characters’ parts. The Kalusian empire signed a peace treaty of all the planets so they could live in harmony years ago, but the royal family was killed off – only Rhee was left alive. Throughout the book, Rhee is filled with vengeance to get to the bottom of the assassination and serve the justice her country deserves.
Rhee was all the Ta’an had left. She couldn’t bear the thought of failing her legacy.
Aly, on the other hand, is a star UniForce soldier for the reality TV show The Revolutionary Boys. He’s also Wraetan, who sometimes experiences discriminate behavior from the Kalusians because of deep-set prejudice on his planet, long obliterated by Kalusian forces. As well as he tries to assimilate with the rest of the population, there’s no doubt that he’s just so different. This difference is what makes him the scapegoat and on the run, after being accused of killing Rhee. With that, Aly sets on his own mission of exonerating himself and letting the truth out.
After a failed assassination attempt, Rhee is considered dead to the world but sets out trying to figure out who killed her family and take her revenge. I liked both Rhee and Aly, although Aly’s POV a bit more. Rhee is very vindictive and looking for a way to set the royal family to rights. She’s also very impulsive and knows that. I was mainly frustrated with her throughout the book because her character growth was a bit slower as she continues to make mistakes. I think that’s what made her actions and dialogue towards the climax and end of the book much more satisfying though, because readers know how much she’s changed and what she’s gone through.
‘Princess, listen to me: You’ll have little luck finding anyone you can trust.’
Aly is totally a soft boy who just wants to be liked by everyone. My heart ached for him after he became a fugitive, and I found his storyline really interesting. I also liked how the author challenged the microaggressions he was surrounded with, from the scapegoat plot by Kalusians to the way they described his skin as the color of food (always a no-no). Alyosha discovers that his best friend Vin is part of the United Planets, who have plans of their own after seeing all the assassinations of the Ta’an. He also meets a mysterious girl who is closely tied with the bigger plot going on, and I really liked how the author worked that part into the storyline. It makes the meeting of the different plots even more exciting!
This is mainly a me problem but throughout learning from her mistakes, Rhee treated some people with behavior that wasn’t warranted and I kind of wished there was a better resolution to these actions. One was with her dad’s best friend, Seotra, who acted as Crown Regent and the other is Dahren, who helps save her multiple times but has his own motives. I understand that it’s hard to trust everyone fully in her situation, but sometimes the plot just went so fast that it was hard to get caught up to the character’s feelings. Much of the characterization from Rhee’s POV was repetitive as she thought about the same lessons over and over again. I would have liked it if all that action maybe took a step back to really focus on how the characters are feeling throughout everything that happened to them in a more in-depth way. This is the same with the romance that happens on Aly’s POV.
The world-building isn’t anything new, but space settings always get plus points from me. 😀 I loved seeing the different species of the different planets, and the way they’re casually integrated within the story, as both best friends and part of the antagonist group. Speaking of antagonists, I thought the one in this book was a bit superficial and expected something a bit more. Empress of a Thousand Skies definitely cautions readers as it takes a media outlet and turns it into something much more powerful and controlling, much more hegemonic. Very basic, but just effective enough to be a substantial threat to the future of the empire and the peace they’ve fought for.
All in all, I really enjoyed Empress of a Thousand Skies and am eagerly anticipating the sequel, as well as what new discoveries the author has in store for us readers. Rhee and Aly were both flawed and growing characters, and their separate storylines ensure that there’s never a boring moment in the book. Aside from a couple of grapples with the characterization and non-stop plot, I thoroughly enjoyed this quick adventure and really recommend it to sci-fi readers waiting for a journey that’ll take them across the galaxy.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thank you Penguin for the review copy!