The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Space Opera
I went into The Empress Game expecting a space opera. While this is being classified as one, and in some aspects it is, it didn't feel like one when I was reading it. It read more like an other world fantasy - one that wasn't all that original. However, I was immediately drawn into the story and I liked it even if it lacked some depth and originality.
The Empress Game is a tournament where the winner gets to be - well, the Empress. I did not think this to be a very plausible way for an Emperor to choose his Empress. The reason given for these games is because it's tradition and no one wants to change the way this is, even though our current Emperor has tried. Ok whatever. I was willing to overlook this.
Kayla our main character here, is recruited to impersonate Princess Isonde, who isn't a fighter, in the games through some sort of bio strip and holographic means. I'm still not sure how it worked. This is against the rules and they could all be put to death if anyone finds out. One thing I did like was the way the author described the different fighting styles and how our protagonist, who is described as tall and athletic, had to fight different opponents differently based on size and skill. This is loads better than the scenario where the tiny woman beats huge opponents in direct hand to hand combat. Unless the tiny woman has some special powers, it's completely implausible. So points to the author for making these fights seem more realistic.
Things are going along pretty smoothly for a while, but Kayla has her own secrets and they complicate things. Those secrets involve who she really is and her history, and they are tied in some ways to what the Emperor and Princess Isonde are trying to accomplish by making Isonde Empress. I won't say anything else about this because of spoilers.
I found the characters in this mostly likable, even if a few of them could have been more fleshed out. We get no real insight into Isonde as a person or the Emperor, Alton. I liked Kayla instantly and her young brother, Corinth, who she is so protective of. Malkor was also likable. I did feel like the romance could have been developed better. There were hints of feelings throughout most of the book, but then they suddenly end up coming across too strongly near the end. How did we get from developing feelings to love so quickly? The romance however, does not overpower the story. It is left in the background mostly until near the end, which was good.
I will probably read the next book when it comes out in August. I'm hoping for more of a space opera feel in the next one.
View all my reviews