Genre: Sci-fi, YA
Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies #1
Rating: 2 STARS
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.
“Rhee tore a path through the bustling marketplace, kicking up dust that fell slowly in Nau Fruma’s low gravity.”
Ugh, I’m so sad. I was super excited to read this book because it sounded really awesome, not to mention how pretty the cover is. But, unfortunately, I was highly disappointed by this one. And it all started out so well! Those are always the most disappointing books.
I think my favorite character out of the POVs was definitely Aly. He was so sweet and funny and nice, and I think the reason I liked him so much is that he’s different from the typical male POV, you know, the blonde, white guy who’s a player/professional jerk and also spits out sarcastic comments at all times. Yeah, that one. It was nice to get a change of pace with a sweeter guy. And we also get to balance it out with Dahlen, who’s all mysterious and secretive, and, personally, I want to learn so much more about him. Our main female character is Princess Rhiannon, and I feel sort of meh about her. I’m sure she’ll be a favorite protagonist of many, but for me, I think she’s one of many female protagonists that I’ll probably forget about in a couple of weeks. I do really like the fact that she wasn’t physically badass, by which I mean she wasn’t an amazing fighter or came up with witty comebacks like most female badasses seem to have been degraded to. We also have Kara, who plays a larger part in Aly’s story and someone we meet later in the novel, and, again, pretty forgettable on my end. I just didn’t care too much for her and felt she was quite bland.
I will say, one of my favorite parts of the novel was how it mirrored our real life at the moment. Aly is black and Wraetan (a race of people that reminded me of a representation of Syrian refugees and immigrants), and is immediately blamed for Rhiannon’s murder, even though he didn’t do it, just because of racial profiling. A new leader, Nero (a.k.a. Donald Trump in Space), bases his entire campaign off the fear people have with Wraetan refugees and saying they’re violent savages and that his supporters need to be protected from them. Aly talks constantly about his struggles and the stories of other Wraetan refugees as they leave their war-torn home and are constantly separated. It was such a fantastic representation, and it’s really what makes me love fantasy and sci-fi: the way it can show us the flaws in our own society and how ridiculous they are, sometimes.
The romance though? Definitely its weakest point. Fortunately, Dahlen and Rhiannon don’t get together (yeah, a boy and a girl travelled together and didn’t end up making out!), but then it’s rendered completely useless because Kara and Aly meet 2/3 near the end of the book, and Aly can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. Her. And I’m being serious here, because I got so annoyed, I started highlighting. Here are a couple of quotes:
“Her hazel eyes – were they always hazel? – met his and never left as they counted together.”
This is when the two of them are, you know, TRYING TO ESCAPE.
“The curve of her hip brushed against him, and even now – filthy and exhausted, skinned to hell, and on the run for his life – Aly felt his face flush.”
I don’t think I have to explain this one.
“He’d bloodied his knees and elbows, and he sure that everything would hurt later, but it felt fantastic here – his arms around her, his face in her big mess of tangles.”
Literally Aly’s thoughts two paragraphs after the previous quote I mentioned.
“She squeezed him. He could smell her, feel all the warmth from under her coat. For a long time, there was quiet, except for the sound of Aly’s heavy sobbing.”
Again, TRYING TO ESCAPE.
“He reached behind Kara to unravel the scarf, and her messy black hair fell everywhere. It smelled good – just a little bit sweet – and he brushed it out of her eyes for no good reason.”
*rolls eyes into the next century*
I get it, you love her; can we please move on to the actual plot and action and stuff? Or back to Rhiannon? Come on now! Not to mention the fact that it’s just the most boring romance ever, and I just didn’t care at all.
But, balancing the negative with the positive, I loved the world-building. Because of my obsession with Red Rising, I just love books that take place in space and such, and I thought the different races and the way the system worked was incredibly interesting and captivating. And, again, the way the fictional world mirrored our own was what made it so brilliant. My hat goes off to you, Belleza!
I felt like it was just personal opinion regarding the pacing, but at times I would be on the edge of my seat, and then I’d just become bored and easily confused. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m just bad at following things, but it just really bothered me how over the place it was.
Overall, this book wasn’t too good for me, but I can definitely see this become a new favorite for someone else.
Have you read this book yet? What did you think about it?