Friday, March 3, 2017

Book Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

As you might know, I love outer space. Stars, galaxies, space exploration--it all fascinates me. Thus, I'm a huge fan and advocate for science-fiction books, specifically YA science-fiction books. (There just aren't enough YA science-fiction books to please me.) So when I heard about Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza, I knew I had to read it. Immediately. While it's certainly not my favorite YA science-fiction/outer space novel, Empress of a Thousand Skies did some things right. (Plus, I love the cover. What can I say? Covers are my weakness. Along with poor sad babies, waffles, and snarky characters.)


Synopsis

Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta'an is about to reclaim the Kalusian throne and she's seeking revenge on the person who destroyed her family. But when an attack on her life forces her to go into hiding, she learns there is much more to her family's deaths. Meanwhile, Alyosha, a Wraetan refugee, is framed for the princess' supposed death and forced to flee for his life. 

What I Liked

World Galaxy-building
Can we just take a moment to appreciate the lovely galaxy map that is provided with this book. I love maps, so when there are unique maps in books I kind of drool all over the book. (Sorry, Library!) And Empress of a Thousand Skies has a great map that provides all the planets and their locations to one another. It's quite helpful when the characters bounce from planet to planet. Plus, it's just gorgeous with the starscape design A+ idea, people. (We need more science-fiction maps.) Anyways, the galaxy-building of this book was fantastic. It felt like a lived-in system with a lot of different races, governments, and beliefs. I could tell the author spent a lot of time fleshing out the world she was introducing in this story.

Alyosha
Alright, but Aly was my favorite ever, okay? He was seriously so wonderful, I can't even tell you why. While Rhee was kind of "eh" in my opinion (she never listened to anybody and she made a lot of rash decisions), Aly was the best. He was smart and loyal and just in a lot of hurt because of how he's been treated. (Poor baby. I'm definitely a sucker for the poor babies). He's also a person of color, and he's dealing with a lot of ups and downs because of who he is. It was powerful to see him choose to do the right thing, even when the entire galaxy was prodding him to do something wrong. I look forward to more Aly in the sequel. (Because there is a sequel, and I will be reading it.)

Plot/Concept
The overall plot of the book was neat and interesting. It made for an exciting outer space story with lots of action, cool gadgets, and an interesting galaxy set up. It's not your typical YA story either. It focuses more on action, racism, and refugees (which was fantastic), instead of romance or teenage angst. While there is a little bit of romance, it's unexpected and not cliche or between the two main characters. (*round of applause for not being annoying*) The refugee and race focus was powerful and something I hope continues and even expands in the sequel.

What I Didn't Like

Plot twists
The plot twists in this book weren't that surprising. I guessed most of them pages before they occurred. Even up until the very last page, most of the book was predictable. If I wasn't so enthralled by everything else, it might have put a damper on the story. But because Empress of a Thousand Skies did a lot of other things right, I can forgive the plot twists.

Pacing
Sometimes the pacing felt rushed. There was a lot to the plot and the characters that would have been so much better if it could have slowed down for a second and let things flourish. This book is a little over three hundred pages, which in the scope of YA fantasy/SF, isn't that long. So I wish it could have been a little longer to let the story flow more. (It's a shame, isn't? That books like this--books with a whole lot of potential--get a short page limit while Carve the Mark has too many pages. *sigh*)

Aly and Rhee
Okay, my biggest complaint is that Aly and Rhee never cross paths in this book. I mean, there's like one brief moment where they're in the same room and see each other, but that's it. There is no interaction; they don't know each other. Even up until the end of the book, they aren't connected at all. Which was stupid. Because the synopsis says "Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy." BUT THEY DON'T JOIN FORCES. I guess they probably will in book two. But the synopsis for book one is wrong! It's just wrong. And that saddens me. I spent the entire book waiting in anticipation for when they would meet and decide to take on the galaxy together. And it didn't happen. *sobs*

Overall

Other than a few aspects, which I know could make or break a story for someone, Empress of a Thousand Skies was a fun, intergalactic story with memorable characters and an intriguing concept. It highlights the struggles of refugees and the hurt of racism, which I think are both important themes for our world today. It also has a lot of potential, and I'm excited to see what book two will hold. If you like science-fiction stories, or if you're a fan of The Lunar Chronicles, Firefly, or Illuminae, you should give Empress of a Thousand Skies a chance.

What other YA science-fiction stories do you love? Any recommendations for me are welcome in the comments.

~I checked out Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza from my local library and chose to write a review of my own freewill. All opinions are my own.~

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