Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza


Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
Book One of the Empress of a Thousand Skies series
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

Empress
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he's forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

What I Liked:

I don't think this book was terrible, but it was great for me. I can see myself reading the second book next year, since it's the conclusion to this series. Duologies are awesome. But I wasn't all that impressed by this book. For all the hype I've seen from certain bloggers and the publisher itself, this book isn't actually that special. 

This book is told from the POVs of Rhee, and Aly. Rhee is Crown Princess, set to become Empress on her upcoming sixteenth birthday. She is on her way to the planet where she'll swear her oaths when she is attacked and nearly killed. A mysterious boy named Dahlen rescues her, and she escapes the ship with him. But everyone thinks that she is dead, and the Regent has assumed power and has declared war on other planets. Her death has been blamed on the star of a DroneVision show, Alyosha. Aly is Wraetan, which is why the princess's murder is pinned on him. With a hefty bounty on his head, he is forced to flee. He meets a strange girl on the way to freedom, and he learns things about the technology everyone uses that shakes him to the core. Rhee is fighting for her throne, and Aly is fighting for his freedom. There is only one path to both of those goals, and no matter the  choices, it involves war. 

I love science fiction, especially YA science fiction. This type of science fiction reminded me a little of Star Wars. There are ships and space travel and species of creatures other than humans. There is a man trying to claim power as Emperor who is similar to the Emperor of Star Wars. There are droids, good and bad - the good one, Pavel, is awesome.

Rhee starts the story as a girl trained in secret to take the throne as Empress. She is desperate to get revenge on her family (parents and older sister), who were murdered years ago. The man who had them murdered has the power, but not for long, with her claiming the throne. She is blind and naive, in the beginning. As the story goes on, she becomes smarter, less blind, and more cognizant of the fact that ascending the throne and having her revenge wasn't going to be easy, with or without the attempts on her life.

While I didn't dislike Rhee, I liked Aly much more. He is a Wraetan refugee who joined the galaxy's military at a fairly young age, and gained fame as part of a duo that is featured on a show on DroneVision. His buddy Vincent turns out to be someone with a lot of secrets - not just the golden boy of the show. Aly is a smart guy, and he is a creative mechanic who seems to be able to build anything out of a few parts. I liked Aly's change of attitude - he goes from being comfortable in his current life and wanting no part of wars and revolutions, to accepting his fugitive fate and trying to stay alive. He does what he can to clear his name, but even that isn't enough.

Points to the author for including a cast of diverse characters. I believe Rhee is supposed to be Filipino-inspired, in features? Tanned skin and black hair - though I'm not sure for certain. Aly has black skin. You don't often see a black protagonist in YA science fiction (I'm talking primary characters). 

There are two very important secondary characters that I liked a lot. Dahlen is the boy who rescues Rhee and tries to get her to where his order resides. His order (sort of like a religious order) is extremely important in the story, though this is revealed very late in the story. Dahlen has a lot to fight for, and a lot of secrets. The other important character is Kara, a girl that Aly encounters and they end up saving each other's lives. Kara is as street-smart as Aly, and the pair become inseparable. 

This book is written in dual POV, and I think this really worked for the story. I do take issue with a small part of the synopsis (which I'll discuss below). But I liked how the storylines were completely separate, working towards different goals that end up aligning as the story goes on. I can't say I was totally immersed in the story, but I did like how it was told.

The ending didn't really shock me? As soon as a certain plot point and then another thing was introduced, I knew. There is one more book to follow, so it'll be interesting to see how certain things play out. I'll probably read the second book, if only to see how the story wraps up.

What I Did Not Like:

This book was a little on the boring side. Sure, I can forgive most slow-starting fiction novels, especially science fiction ones. I don;'t necessarily mind slow stars, as long as the rest of the novel picks up. But with this book, I never felt like the story picked up. I mean, the climax arrived and it definitely felt like the climax of the story, but the entire story really went at a slow pace. I think the story might have benefited more if both book one and book two (which has not been published yet) were combined to make one large standalone. 

On that note? This book was rather short? I flew it very quickly, despite being bored almost out of my mind. It's less than 350 pages which, to me, is short.

I think Aly's POV was what kept me reading? I liked him a lot, and his droid Pavel. Pavel reminded me of C3PO in Star Wars. Rhee's POV... meh. She gets caught, she escapes, she gets caught, she escapes, rinse and repeat.

Let's talk about that line of the synopsis that pissed me off a little. It says: 

"With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy."

Let's revisit the define of "together", shall we? In proximity, in contact, in union. It can also mean simultaneously, very loosely. The synopsis makes us believe that Rhee and Aly will literally be together, occupying the same space. This is never the case. They only "interact" one time, and it's a scene in which they make eye contact, and then Aly leaves the scene. Neither really recognize the other (well, Rhee might have recognized Aly, but Aly couldn't make recognized Rhee given her effective disguise). So... they weren't "thrown together". And they're not even technically confronting the same "ruthless evil". Rhee is facing off with a tyrant, and Aly has been exposed to a terrible evil that Rhee learns about in the last pages. Their goals align, but they're not really facing the same thing. I know that might not make a lot of sense, but I don't want to spoil too much. 

Anyway, do you see my point about that line of the synopsis? It's misleading and annoying, because I kept waiting for Rhee and Aly to physically meet and then work together. If that line hadn't been in the synopsis, I wouldn't have cared. Instead, Rhee spent the majority of the novel following Dahlen, and Aly spent about half the novel with his buddy Vincent, and the other half with Kara.

Romance - there is romance on Aly's side (you can probably guess), but not on Rhee's side. I don't care either way. Rhee and Aly isn't going to be a thing, purely based on the fact that they haven't even met yet. I do hope we get to see Rhee spend time with her childhood friend whom she had to leave when she boarded the ship to be sworn in as Empress. That would be a cute romance! Anyway I'm not bothered by the lack of romance, but just not that there isn't really any. And definitely do not expect Aly and Rhee to get together or anything (in the romantic sense, or otherwise).

The plot with the technology - so the technology is kind of big deal in this galaxy. There are these things called cubes that you have attached and implanted (but it's external, so you can touch it). You can store memories and parts of yourself self (from your mind) in the cube, so you can always have that information. Everyone is always "online", and when they come "offline", they feel discomfort and sickness. There is a big plot twist about the cubes. My complaint is that I literally do not understand how the cubes work, or what they even look like. The author did a very poor job of explaining the cubes and their appearance. Notice how I gave a vague description of the cubes? It's because I didn't get a good feel for them. In theory, the technology sounds interesting (though painful in terms of installation), but I wanted to know more about how they work and what they look like. Especially since they become a big deal, towards the end of the book. 

My final complaint - what is up with that title? Literally no one becomes Empress, in this story. I don't think it's fair to name a book "Empress of a Thousand Skies" when there is no Empress in this particular book. Maybe name book two "Empress of a Thousand Skies"? We'll probably have an Empress by then. But in this book, Rhee is Crown Princess, and then she is nothing (she has to go into hiding after the attempt on her life). The title is neat and catchy and flowery, but doesn't really make sense in the context of this book. 

Would I Recommend It:

Ehhh, not really. It's not a bad book! But it's also nothing new, nothing intriguing, nothing life-changing. It's not a bad book, but it's not nearly as OMG-THIS-IS-SO-GOOD as a few bloggers I've seen made it out to be. Conversely though, there have been some bloggers on Goodreads that absolutely did not enjoy this book. So I know I'm not alone! If you're a fan of YA science fiction, like me, this one might be a little disappointing. I can point you in the direction of much better space-related science fiction novels, futuristic science fiction novels, and other science fiction novels in YA in general.

Rating:

3 stars. I didn't really hate the book or feel negatively toward it, so I'm not going to give it 2 stars. There were parts of the book that I liked overall (Aly, Pavel, the dual POV), but for the most part, the novel is nothing special or particularly entertaining. Not a waste of my time, but noth a book I feel strongly about (either way). I think I will read the sequel though, because it should be more interesting and exciting than this book.


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

37 comments:

  1. Too bad you didn't enjoy this one :( But most series don't usually have exciting first book than the sequel

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    1. I know! I find that the sequels are often worse than the first book - the first book is usually really good. In any case, this one wasn't amazing, like I expected!

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  2. Ekkkk! This is on my TBR must reads this year. Awesome review, Alyssa.... I will bump this down the list then. Maybe pick up the audiobook... hehe

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    1. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it more than I did! Really, it wasn't awful, but for me it wasn't great either. D:

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    2. you guys definitely need to read Half Bad then... a strong first book with great sequels! it gave me all the emotions

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  3. I read this book this month as well. I didnt like it. I was bkred outta my mind too. And i was so annoyed that all the chapters felt like they built up to something SO interesting and the chapter would end and the thing would be resolved off page by the time you got back to that person's POV. And i was annoyed by that line in the synopsis too! Idk if i care enough about what happens to anyone but Pavel to read more of this series. Haha! Great review!

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    1. Ahhhh! I'm kind of glad you didn't, because I've been seeing all the love for this book and then there is me. :D That unresolved feeling - I definitely agree with you. Gah!

      Thank you, Cyra!

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  4. This is the second "meh" review I've read this weekend, so now I'm wondering if I might just skip this. I have so many other books to read, after all! Thanks for your detailed and honest review!

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    1. It's unfortunate but at the same time, I'm glad I'm not alone. If you happen to read this one, Tammy, I hope you like it!

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  5. Meh, no romance? So so disappointing. I'm sorry this book wasn't all that awesome :\ And boring too at times? Not good. Ack! But yay for enjoying parts of it at least :) Gorgeous review Alyssa. <3 This cover is gorgeous, but I won't read it, sadly :p

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    1. Seriously though! I had so many little issues and then some big issues and honestly this one wasn't even really worth it? It's okay though. I don't think you'd love this one, Carina!

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  6. Aw that's too bad! I was really looking forward to this one. I'm definitely still going to read it, but my anticipation lessened. I for sure assumed that Rhee and Aly were going to be a thing considering they are "thrown together" and all that jazz. But I guess not, considering they don't even interact in this book. Here's hoping I'll be one of those people calling it the next big thing in YA sci fi. :D Great review Alyssa!

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    1. I hope you like it more than I did! That part of the synopsis is SO misleading - they never even meet in this book. *sigh*

      Thank you, Genni!

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  7. Sorry to hear you didn't love this! I'm quite looking forward to it because it sounds so unique!

    xx Anisha (https://sprinkledpages.blogspot.com.au/)

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    1. No worries! I hope you enjoy it, Anisha! =)

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  8. I'm sorry this one was a bit of a bust - I've been seeing it around and mostly heard good things. It's annoying that the title and part of the synopsis is a bit misleading!!

    Thanks for the honest review.

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    1. Me too - I was worried I was the black sheep, but I don't I am, anymore. Phew!

      Thank YOU, Di!

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  9. I always assume dual narratives mean characters will get together or at least interact. It's interesting - and a little strange - that they do not. I think I'll hold off reading this until the duology complete.

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    1. SAME! Definitely not going to be the case, in this series. I don't even know if I want to read book two. Maybe? Ugh. So many books to read!

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  10. Interesting review. I like your break down of why you don't enjoy the book. It seems confusing that the back of the book doesn't really match 100% what happened and the title is also confusing.

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    1. Thank you, Kristyn! I'm glad you understood what I meant - I felt like I was struggling to put what I meant into words, when I was writing the review. o_o

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  11. Aww...I was hoping this book would be amazing! Sounds like the book didn't live up to the expectations/blurb of the book. I think I'll leave this for now. Sigh. Oh well. Thanks for the great review, Alyssa!

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    1. Me too! I felt so let down. It might be a good series to binge-read though, who knows. :o Thank you so much, Cyn!

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  12. I haven't been super excited about this book in general but after reading your review, I think I'll probably stay away from it. It sounded like a cool concept and I loved the cover but from what you've said about the pacing and the characters, I don't think this will be one I'd enjoy.

    Thanks for the honest review, Alyssa!

    Ashtyn @ Wonderland’s Reader!

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    1. It definitely seems like a great book! But in the end, I felt a little let down.

      Thank YOU, Ashtyn!

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  13. For some reason I haven't been very interested in this book. After reading your review I think I'll definitely pass on it. And I just noticed there's a girl inside that moon(?) on the cover lol!

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    1. That's probably a good thing! It wasn't *amazing*, you know?

      OMG. I never noticed that! I totally see it - her ponytail is massive! Wow! Good eye. :D

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  14. Sorry you didn't enjoy this one more. I see what you mean about the negatives though. I just won this one on a goodreads giveaway so we will see what I think. Great review!

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    1. Oooo, congrats on winning on Goodreads! That's impressive. :D I hope you enjoy this one than I did, Erin!

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  15. This is one that I loved the cover, but the synopsis didn't totally sell me. I will probably pass on this one based on your review. Thanks for all your information to help me make a decision.

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    1. You have a good instinct! The cover is gorgeous but the synopsis is incredibly misleading. I hope you read something better instead, Lisa!

      You're very welcome!

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  16. I received the audiobook last week Alyssa, so I hope I love it more than you did... I guess we'll see :)

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    1. I hope you do, Liza! I'll look out for your review. :D

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  17. Oh no, what a bummer! I'm shocked that this one is only 350 pages since it's the first book in a duology -- typically duologies have longer books in my experience (probably to make enough room for good world building). You're so right about black protagonists in YA sci-fi (or fantasy, or other genres tbh...): we don't see them enough. I might listen to this one as an audiobook when it comes out purely because both protagonists are PoC, but it's definitely good to know that I should go in with lower expectations. Even if the droids sound pretty cool! ;)

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    1. It's so short! I agree, it definitely should have been longer, given that it's part of a duology. You might enjoy this one a lot, Danya! If you read it, I hope you like it. ^_^

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    1. I hope you like it when you get the chance to read it, Stephanie!

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