Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

empress-of-a-thousand-skies-by-rhoda-bellezaTitle: Empress of a Thousand Skies
Author: Rhoda Belleza
Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies, #1
Pages: 344
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: February 7th 2017

      “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.
      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.
      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.

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“From his thumb to his index finger, the length of his hand fit cleanly around Rhee’s neck. He lifted her off the ground and squeezed. She felt her windpipe closing. She gasped for air as she tried to claw his fingers off one by one.”

There are some books with loads of potential that never seem to find their footing and then there are the ones that you wholeheartedly believe in despite their shortcomings. For me, Rhoda Bellaza’s Empress of a Thousand Skies falls into the latter category. Little spoiler here to open this review, please skip the rest of the paragraph if you do not wish to see. I want to start off by saying that the synopsis is very misleading when it comes to how the two lead characters converge. Their individual arcs do not directly intersect, but their stories do. I want to put that out there because I spent a large majority of my time while reading, wondering when these characters would actually meet and was really disappointed to see that they never did. With that being said, I do need to read a sequel soon because I’d love to see these characters in the same room together.

There are so many layers to Bellaza’s universe and this is one of the main reasons why I enjoyed this debut so much. Interplanetary politics plays a large part. From Rhee’s home planet Kalu to Wraeta, a planet destroyed during the Great War and Aly’s birthplace, this world is populated by a variety of individuals who have all be impacted by this war. The peace treaty currently in place was Rhee’s father’s greatest accomplishment, but it has not erased the bad blood between the planets. The war itself created a population of refugees who continuously face discrimination. Technology plays a really interesting role in this world. Most people have what are called cubes installed that make it easy to access information as well as store important memories. Seeing how the characters relied so heavily on this form of technology and how disconcerting it was for them to power down reminded me of how often we rely on our phones for information and how eager we are to take a picture or video of an important event, not realizing that this can sometimes hinder the experience.

At the beginning of the story, Rhee is determined to avenge her family. I liked Rhee for the most part, but there were times when I was puzzled by her decision making. She’d been training for years, but when it came to her plan for revenge, she hadn’t thought much further than getting close enough to the person she believes is responsible in order to stab them in the heart. I mostly chalk up this lack of preparation to her youth and inexperience. She is the kind of character who is motivated more by emotion than reason. I believe Rhee had a lot more influence than she realized and wondered why she didn’t just come out of hiding, take the throne, and then enact her revenge. I loved Aly’s character, flaws and all. As a Wraetan refugee from a once-hostile planet, Aly carries around a lot of weight on his shoulders. He is judged more harshly and seen as untrustworthy by a lot of people. He struggles with living in a world that can be unfriendly and unfair, wanting to prove to everyone that he is worth more their prejudice views would dictate. Like Rhee, he has lost his entire family and is still searching for his place in the world.

Empress of a Thousand Skies has plenty of elements that are relevant to our current political climate, is multi-layered when it comes to its world-building, and introduces two very different and engaging characters that I’m dying to learn more about. It isn’t often that I say this, but I wish this novel had been longer, so I could get a chance to spend more time with both Rhee and Aly.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

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23 thoughts on “Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

  1. Lovely review Alicia! This was one of my highly anticipated books of 2017, and although I haven’t got round to picking it up yet, I’m still hoping to in the next few months. I like stories about female MCs who have to fight for what they believe in, so judging from your description, it sounds like I’ll love this – although I can imagine myself questioning Rhee’s decisions in the same way you did. Do you know if this is part of a duology or trilogy? (Or longer series?) Glad you enjoyed this one!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a habit of always scrolling down to the end to see your rating first, then I read the summary and review. But, this time, I skipped a whole half para…spoiler warning. =) Empress of a Thousand Skies is quite multi-dimensional, from characters to political intrigue. I’m glad you connected with it despite the flaws, and that’s perfectly fine. Books have a kind of magic that is spellbinding for some and not for others. I wonder which group I’ll be in? Great review, Alicia.

    I agree; it should have been 345 pages. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have the same exact thoughts! I found that I enjoyed Aly and Kara much more than Rhee. I too felt she was short sighted. The tech aspect had a cyber punk feel to me and I loved that even more. For me, the actual world of politics and relations was really well described, but I felt it was missing an atmosphere, description like feel. I wanted there to be a little more about where they were. But I also give it a 4 out of 5!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was such an interesting book, and I definitely agree with you about wishing it had been longer. I felt like we didn’t get nearly enough time with the characters in the book, and I was also kind of of bummed that they technically didn’t get to meet each other. The synopsis made it sound like they were going to be thrown into each other’s worlds, so I was a bit disappointed by that. I’m excited that there’s going to be another book, though! Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The synopsis seems to imply that Aly is accused of killing Rhee, meaning she’s dead, and that’s what motivates him–proving he’s innocent. So, how much of her is in the book? I hate it when the official synopsis is not good, like you mention!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The Friday 56: Empress of a Thousand Skies | A Kernel of Nonsense

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