Book Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Summary: After a failed assassination attempt on the day of her coronation, Crown Princess Rhiannon vows to reclaim her thrown and seek vengeance on the person who led to her family’s murder years ago. Alyosha is the star of a reality show and a war refugee who is framed for the alleged death of the Crown Princess Rhiannon. Both Alyosha and Rhiannon travel across the galaxy in search of answers.

Thoughts: I have so many mixed feelings about this book. For starters, it’s a beautiful blend of science-fiction and fantasy, with great and complex world-building that is boosted by a diverse cast of characters facing real-world problems (like being refugees and immigrants in a place they’re not wanted). The book is fast-paced and full of daring adventure and it’s this very thing that made it so hard to connect with the characters. There’s scarcely a moment where they stop running to take stock of themselves and one another. Everything is happening so fast, that by the end of the book, I was more familiar with the plot than the characters. There were a few things that I found repetitive like Rhiannon’s determination to seek vengeance. It just pulled me out of the story every time she mentioned it, and I think it reads repetitively because there was more “telling” than “showing” her need for vengeance. Despite what the blurb said, the fugitive and empress don’t actually join forces to do anything. The one scene where they met was when they spotted each other across a crowded room, for one second, and used each other’s presence to make their own individual escape. I was sort of let down by that because I kept waiting for them to cross paths and join forces. The big spoiler at the end wasn’t a spoiler, really. I saw it coming, and I think the ending would have been much stronger if it wasn’t so obvious. Nevertheless, Belleza’s prose was very beautiful and aside from characterization, repetitiveness and a sort of misleading blurb, this was an enjoyable read with great world-building and high stakes.

Stars: 3/5