Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

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CROWN PRINCESS RHIANNON TA’AN WANTS VENGEANCE.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, RHEE has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

ALYOSHA is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

In this exhilarating debut for fans of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy, RHODA BELLEZA crafts a powerful saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

review

3/5 Stars

  • Suspense. Though the pacing was sometimes iffy, the uncertainty, danger, and desperation of both Aly and Rhee’s situations keep the intensity up and I never wanted to stop reading, I needed to know what happened and whether Rhee and Aly would ever cross paths. There’s an abundance of intrigue, evil, and sabotage throughout that happens almost at random.
  • Aly’s POV. I adored Aly. He was unexpected and engaging. A reality TV star of an obliterated planet who goes around hunting down illegal ships? I mean what’s not to love? He’s a little serious, a tad brooding, but curious and courageous. He sometimes lets his prejudice get in the way and those flaws only made him more endearing. Aly spends his time on the run, getting into precarious situations just as dangerous and exciting as Rhee’s. Aly’s POV was more introspective and thoughtful, he judged himself, his actions, and embraced the wild goose chase because he had no choice. His lighter-hearted sections were a nice balance to Rhee’s. Pavel, Aly’s sidekick robot ❤ He’s witty and intelligent and compliments Aly’s BA mechanical skills. 
  • I loved the politics when they were there. The distinctions between races, the disgust, the hatred, how people from certain planets are degraded and looked down on. It’s terrible and complex and made me hurt for those poor slaughtered people and the anguish they went through as their families were killed, their planets destroyed, and everything they knew replaced by revulsion and rejection. The technology is intriguing. I loved the cubes. It’s like this piece that attached to them that tracks everything. Their movements, their memories, and syncs. But holy invasion of privacy and huge risk. It felt like paranoia on the horizon, like someone had to be listening in or something. Totally creepy. 
  • Dahlen. Oh man did I absolutely love this character. He doesn’t have a POV, but I wish he did. He’s complex, has a convoluted and slightly insane, almost cult-like back story and I wanted so much more. He’s the kind of character that you know in actions seems evil or at the very least misguided, but something makes you question his motives and whether he’s hiding his true self. Plus he’s fierce, crafty, clever, and always coming up with ways to escape seemingly impossible situations. 

CONS:

  • Foreshadowing is difficult to get right, go too far and everything becomes predictable. In the first few pages I knew pretty much every twist and every reveal. It was all there in leading sentences that made you pause for a minute and think. Everything was too obvious, too handed to the reader and it took a lot away from the suspense that should have been building as Rhee and Aly fled for their lives. 
  • Worldbuilding. Don’t get me wrong, the world was there, it was solid but it felt like it was only a layer above the foundation. There are several planets, different races(?) of people, and a storm of politics that pit planets against each other and enforce hatred and prejudice. That was epic, though lacking somewhat in description. It was hard to follow the politics and keep track of the planets as the story progressed. I would have loved a little more why. Why the animosity? Why was it so easy to turn people against each other? Why and where does the planetary hierarchy begin and end? I had several questions and too few answers. 
  • As much as it pains me to say this, I did not like Rhee. Not even remotely and despite her slight growth, she did not grow on me. Rhee is naive and will not listen to reason. She’s been holding onto a grudge for years with zero proof, only her poorly constructed conjecture. Everyone can tell who the bad guys are, there’s no speculation except from the main character. Weird. Rhee thinks the wrong things through. It’s like at every turn she’s focused on random stuff instead of the bigger picture. It drove me mad. She thinks she knows absolutely everything and doesn’t leave room for anyone else’s opinions or facts, she goes head first into whatever situation and then afterwards is like, oh wow, I was wrong how did that happen? Maybe I should have listened? And then shrug. I wrote status updates and notes throughout reading, which took far longer than it should have I might add, and I don’t think I’ve ever used the words “duh” and “obviously” so much in my life. And she’s supposed to be the savior, the key that will stop an inevitable war, and an empress? Rhee needs decades worth of growth and maturity and a whole lot of councillors before that could ever seem remotely possible.
  • Side note: I would not compare this to Red Rising. 

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Intriguing reading, 

Jordan