BOOK REVIEW : Empress of a Thousand Skies
By Rhoda Belleza
BY SULPHIA IQBAL
Empress of a Thousand Skies is an appropriate, timely read that sheds light on things most YA novels don’t usually do in science fiction. The book mirrors major issues like privacy, danger of of technology, and racism. After reading Carve the Mark, I was kinda skeptical about anything intergalactic YA. That said, I had really low expectations for this book, but I was glad to find I was earnestly wrong.
The novel is told in the perspective two distinct characters, the first being Crown Princess Rhiannon. At a young age, her parents and older sister, who at the time was Crown Princess, died in an accident. Since that very day, Rhee was convinced her late father’s best friend was responsible for their deaths, intending to seize the throne and succeeded. She never stopped to question her theory and decided it would be her sole mission to avenge her parents when she finally reclaimed the throne and killed her family’s betrayer.
Meanwhile, the novel also narrates the story of Alyosha, a popular social media star originating from a planet called Wraeta. The people of this planet are basically shunned and are considered as “lessers” for their skin color and “violent and unstable” behavior.
I’m really picky about my characters and though I did not exactly like Rhee, she did have a significant amount of character growth. In the beginning, she started off naive and impulsive, quite understandable after the accident gave her survivor’s guilt. Alyosha’s character was rather insightful and diverse; it was refreshing for a YA character in sci-fic to address issues without being subtle. He is framed by the leader of the planet for the supposed murder of Crown Princess Rhiannon, solely because of the color of his skin, forcing him to address the racial comments that seem to never end and the issue he has with privacy and social media in a world where every move you made could be acquired through the cube, a device installed on every person as a means to record memories.
To reiterate what I said before, this book does actually capture issues like racism, privacy, and the dangers of technology in an appealing way. I think Veronica Roth tried to do the same in Carve The Mark, though it did not work as well. Reading YA sci-fic with similarities to real realities puts things into perspective. As Emily May put it, “it was deeply disturbing to see how much a dramatic and dangerous fantasy world could mirror our own,”.
The only thing that prevented me from giving this book a 5/5 was the fact it was slow until the very end and how boring it was for a majority of it. The idea and concept might not have seemed original at first glance, but it proved to be different from other intergalactic novels out there. The world-building was not bad and certainly fared better than Carve The Mark. But the plot was really bland for a lot of it and could have used more spice and action.
“If all we are is what people think we are, then we’re all screwed.”
An actually interesting intergalactic YA novel that you should definitely pick up.
Check it out at the library and goodreads :