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Empress Of A Thousand Lies

Join Rhee and Aly as they attempt to uncover the truth in Rhoda Belleza's debut novel, Empress of a Thousand Skies.

Empress Of A Thousand Lies

BOOK REPORT for Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
 
Cover Story: Total Eclipse of the Face
BFF Charm: Meh x2 
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Full Steam Ahead
Bonus Factors: Diversity, Conspiracies
Anti-Bonus Factor: Misleading
Relationship Status: Casual DroneVision Fan
 
Cover Story: Total Eclipse of the Face

Is it sad that I have looked at this cover at least a dozen times sitting on my coffee table, and as I went to write this, only NOW do I see the giant face in the middle of the moon? Is this an optical illusion? Aside from the questionable choice of Big Face (though at least the Big Face looks like the character), the cover certainly is eye-catching, though I don’t really know why. All I can say is I like it, because space is pretty.

The Deal: 

Crown Princess Rhiannon has been training for most of her life to be Empress ever since she escaped the tragic ship accident that claimed her parents and older sister (the real heir). Kept locked away from the capital and from the prying eyes of the universe, she’s all set to finally appear in front of everyone at her coronation—but an assassination attempt forces her to go into hiding from her own guards. Rhee is certain the Regent, her father’s ex-best friend, is the person behind this attempt as well as her parents’ murders, so she’ll stop at nothing to see him pay.

Aly, meanwhile, is minding his own business, just filming the latest episode in Revolutionary Boys, a reality TV propaganda show about two UniForce soldiers patrolling the Outer Belts for bandits. He’s never met the Crown Princess or come anywhere near her, but the news reports coming in suddenly place him as the top suspect in her death. Now Aly, Vin, and Pavel, his robot, are on the run, and it’s even tougher to clear your name when the universe is prejudiced against your people.

BFF Charm: Meh x2

Rhee has a lot on her mind right now. She's unsure if she's fit to lead as Empress, but she knows that of the available options, she's the best hope for peace her people have. She's also consumed with revenge, and that makes her unable to see the forest for the trees. This isn't the best time to forge a friendship, and I think what Rhee needs more than friends right now are loyal advisors.

Aly's a survivor. He's had to flee a war-torn country, lost his mother and sister, dealt with prejudice, and enlisted in a military of his planet's former enemies. He's gained some notoriety by being on DroneVision with his best friend, but he's not totally comfortable in the spotlight. Now that he's public enemy number one, he's still got to bring that fighter instinct in order to stay alive. I think when things calm down we could get along, but he kind of bumbles through his situation, and I'd be a little stressed if we were travel buddies.                                                                       

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

This is not a kissing book. People are much more concerned about clearing their names and/or enacting revenge on the person who did them wrong. There’s a small romance that pops up in the last quarter of the book, but because it came so late in the game, I almost would’ve rather the author completely forgo it and just kept the two in question as friends.

Talky Talk: Full Steam Ahead

Belleza's writing felt relentless, in a mostly good way. We get dropped into Rhee's world and straight into the action, and it doesn't really let up for the rest of the book. I felt like this would make a good Summer sci-fi/thriller blockbuster movie, but like those movies, I did miss some of those small opportunities to breath between the action that could've helped me connect to the characters a little more. The world-building was pretty easy to understand, but I did find myself with some questions at the end that I don't feel were fully answered. It seemed like the "racism" that happened were between two mainly humanoid races, yet there seemed to be many other aliens from other planets, and there was no mention of them being ostracized or persecuted.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

While everyone was actually from made-up alien races, our main characters' looks drew from some clear parallels to real-life races, and almost all of our MCs were POC. 

Bonus Factor: Conspiracies

Rhee's father ended a generations-long war with a peace treaty that only holds sway as long as someone from the Ta'an family sits on the throne. Rhiannon is the last of her family's dynasty, so with her presumed dead, tensions are high. Rhee and Aly have to untangle the separate pieces of the conspiracy to figure out why someone wants her dead.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Misleading

The synopsis leads me to believe that Aly and Rhee team up as unlikely partners, but the characters never actually meet. I spent the entire read waiting for it to happen. This isn't a dealbreaker, but the synopsis is like a book's elevator pitch—you get twenty seconds to tell me why I should spend my time on your book. If that pitch isn't factual, then I will be more wary in the future about trusting you.

Casting Call: 

Katie Leung as Rhiannon

John Boyega as Alyosha

Christopher Larkin as Vincent

Arden Cho as Kate

Relationship Status: Casual DroneVision Fan

You aren't the most original, Book, but when I turned on my DroneVision your story kept me mildly entertained. I don't think I'll be a loyal watcher who tunes in every week, but if I'm bored and there's nothing else on, I won't change the channel on you.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Razorbill. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Empress of a Thousand Skies is available now.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.