Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Empress Game (A Book by a Female Author)

Pro: All the good things you want in a space opera.
Con: It’s the first in a trilogy and it just came out. FRUTT!

The Bottom Line: If you like space opera or Dune, this is something you’ve been waiting for and I suggest you pick up yesterday.

Rhonda Mason was a part of the Seton Hill Creative Writing Program. So was I. Rhonda’s gone and gotten herself published and on the shelves. And every now and again when that happens, I like to pick up one of my fellow graduate’s work and take a look-see.

Ms. Mason does not disappoint.

The Empress Game deposits us into a galaxy controlled by councils made up of people from numerous planets. But there is a seat open on one of the main councils – a very powerful seat. That of the Empress Apparent. The only way to win that seat is through ritualized combat, and certain individuals have decided to bring in someone who knows how to fight and who can win. Kayla Reinumon is that ringer, but what everyone else doesn’t know is that she’s exiled Wyrd royalty. It’s cheating, and they all know it. If they fail, they die. If they win, everyone might just get what they’ve always wanted.

That’s the book in a nutshell. A terrible nutshell. Trust that I really don’t do this book justice. That’s because the setting is huge on a scope of Dune or Star Wars. Thousands of planets and peoples with all manner of technology and politics and plans. But the scope doesn’t get exhausting. You’re zeroed in on specific characters at all times, and focused on what they’re doing because it’s so danged important. You get a taste for the galaxy, but don’t drown in it.

When it comes to the story, characters, and, well, everything, this book made me mad. Why? Because I couldn’t freaking read fast enough! I’m becoming an impatient reader, and when something is good, I admit, I start cheating. I sneak peeks ahead to see if someone is going to kiss someone else, if someone dies, or what someone’s super-important backstory is. I totally cheated with this book. Several times. I just wanted to know! But the only way to get it all is to actually read it like a normal person. It’s just one of those books that make you lament that you have to go to work in the next ten minutes or that dinner is waiting for you on the table. “Just spoon it into my mouth for me, will you? I need to finish this chapter.”

All the characters are likeable. Kayla was a very strong woman with her weaker moments, just like any person would. Malkor was, in a way, sort of the stereotypical badass with a soft n’good side, but I really don’t care. I love those guys no matter where they show up or how stereotypical they might be these days. When a man sticks around with you even though there’s a possibility of nanites eating your face, that’s a winner.

There’s plenty of excitement with the occasional downtime, which gives the pacing a good feel. The fight scenes are well-executed, and you get a little bit of everything. Swords. Knives. Hand-to-hand combat. While a few plot moves are predicable, on the whole you won’t really know what’s coming. And the bad guy is excellent in the way that he’s not even a bad guy you love to hate. You just straight up hate that guy because he’s one sick sonofabitch.

My only peeves are that now I have to wait for more books. Going in I really didn’t know if there would be more or not, and given that I hate waiting, was really hoping that it would be a standalone, but alas – total cliffhanger. And the other peeve?

Let’s talk about “frutt” for a second. “Frutt” is a made up word clearly meant to replace “fuck.” Now, I don’t care if cursing is replaced, but I swear every time I saw this word my brain immediately read it as “fruit.” No joke, while writing this, I even spelled fruit first. It does kind of bug me, though, when fuck is replaced with another f-word (let’s not talk about “frack”), or when swearing elsewhere is a-okay, but for some reason in the galaxy “bullshit” made it in, but the highly versatile and fantastic to say “fuck” did not. If you’re gonna go, then go all in. Don’t pansy out on one swear word for whatever reason. Frutt that.

But if you want to watch a woman kick tons of ass, need a new galaxy to explore, and maybe even sneak in just a touch of skin (go Kayla, whoo hoo!), this should end up on your next To Read list.


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