Overview (No Spoilers):
Empress of a Thousand Skies piqued my curiosity after first synopsis I’d read regarding the upcoming title, as such Belleza’s novel ended up on my Most Anticipated Books of 2017 list, a month before it was even released. After seeing several positive reviews regarding this first book in the series, I put in a request for my local library to pick up this title, whereupon I found myself waiting almost a whole year before it came available. Alas the waiting failed to be worth the wait as the Empress of a Thousand Skies was much more YA than I’d initially expected. I couldn’t help but draw conclusions to the Red Queen series and how frustrated I became with that rather trying female protagonist. While this novel drew significantly less of my ire as that of the aforementioned series, Rhiannon’s petty, immature, impulsive, blindly vengeful and easily coming to concrete conclusions from the slightest of correlations (Note, I picked correlation, over causation deliberately) resulted in more than one exasperated eye roll from this reader. I fully understand that young characters in books should be allowed to develop and mature as the series progresses, however our young Empress’ character growth was stagnant at best through this entire novel. Sure, her need for revenge shifted direction midway through the novel, but the new focus was equally symptomatic of tunnel vision. She spent her whole life training and being educated to take over rule at 16 years old, alas how was she not better prepared to put the people first and not her own selfish whims. Not once in this book did she consider the people or her rule. Perhaps I’m unfairly exaggerating this point, but I’m rounding down to zero. As I reread what I’ve written thus far, it could appear that I hated the Empress of a Thousand Skies, which is far from the truth as I really enjoyed the other POV, Aly, and the general world building, specifically the innovative technology. I’m excited to see what worlds Belleza will take the reader and the depth that will be added as the series progresses. Much of this novel seemed to be establishing a foundation for the world which Rhiannon is supposed to be ruling. One key flaw I have with the current literary world is how often and conveniently our key characters bump into each other despite how overwhelmingly fast the world appears to be. Overall, the Empress of a Thousand Skies was a quick read that other than the selfish, immature protagonist, laid the groundwork to serve as a springboard for an intriguing, action packed sequel.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- Will Rhiannon grow into a leadership role? What does it mean that her sister Joss (Kara) is still alive? Almost from Kara’s introduction it was evident that she was likely Joss. Will Rhiannon give up the title that she’d been groomed from her youth for?
- How did everyone keep Kara’s survival a secret? Why keep it a secret? Were they going to crown Rhiannon and never tell either of them?
- Rhiannon’s blind hatred toward Regent Seotra was so tunnel visioned that of course he was actually one of the good guys. Don’t worry though, Rhee blind revenge how has new direction to Nero. How could he stay so off Seotra’s radar as a threat if he’d been bullying and threatening his way in to power his whole life?
- It keeps getting mentioned that people can will each other memories. I feel like this will come into play, however with the people that died in this book there were no memories transferred to their kin, e.g., Vincent and Kara’s ‘Mom’.
- Also, was Vin actually dead? Talk about an anticlimactic death for a character that had so much potential.
- Who was Vin and Aly chasing in the beginning that they lost in Fontis? I thought it was Rhee and Dahlen but they were stopped by someone else.
- Is Dahlen a good guy or bad guy? Also Rhiannon traveling to his order seemed so pointless as it devolved into mass chaos before anything could be resolved. And how did he get on a royal vessel with all the security?
- Pavel is an awesome addition to the story as a droid side character, however was was his response when Aly woke him up after their capture? Was he corrupted?
- The most interesting aspect of this book was the advanced technology (the cubes) and the debate of real memories vs. recorded ones. As a society we often grab for our phones to record or capture a real event in contrast to living in the moment. I’m guilty of this as anyone and this concept is definitely worth pondering.