Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Book review: The Empress Game


The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason
Titan Books
Buy UK/US

Prepare to make Kayla Reunimon your next favourite warrior princess. The Empress Game by debut author Rhonda Mason is a blistering space opera chock full of political intrigue, back-stabbing conspiracy and good old-fashioned ass-kicking.

Kayla has been in hiding for five years, living as a 'pit whore', a type of planetary gladiator, while protecting her brother Corinth from the people who want them both dead. You see, Kayla is a princess from the planet Oroch located in the wonderfully named Wyrd Space. When the Sakien Empire's International Diplomatic Corps (IDC) pulled off a coup that destroyed her people and family, Kayla and Corinth escaped and went into hiding. In the years that passed, the warrior princess scratched a living from becoming a different kind of ruler - the ruler of the blood pit - adored by the fans she despised and forced to put on a show by her seedy manager under the moniker Shadow Panthe.

Her fighting prowess piques the interest of IDC agent Malkor, who deems her worthy to fight in the Empress Game - an event where princesses from across worlds come to battle one another in a bid to gain a seat at the Council of Seven - the rulers of the Sakien empire who have the casting vote over the most major political decisions of the empire. Kayla is brought on to take the place of princess Isonde to enable Isonde and her supporters to gain the seat on the council and cease the occupation of Oroch. All she has to do is beat hundreds of vicious combatants to get to the throne.

There's a lot at stake in The Empress Game. Not only is Kayla fighting for the freedom of her people under the guise of another princess, but one plot thread involved a manufactured nano-virus that is spreading between worlds, turning people into nasty lumps of black goop - a virus that the Orochians may have the antidote to. It's the continued stake-upping that makes The Empress Game such a thrilling read, as well as its fantastic characters and proficient world-building. While this is the first book of what will be a trilogy, Mason has deftly created a universe that feels complete and complex that feels like it's been built over a series of books, rather than during its debut.

I'm a huge fan of strong, independent heroines who don't take guff from anyone, and Kayla is definitely that. Add to that a healthy dose of political thriller, a love story and a fantastic supporting cast and you have an incredibly effective sci-fi epic.  I can't think of a reason why you shouldn't read this book. Just do it!

Verdict: Read it

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Titan Books