Empress of a Thousand Skies, by Rhoda Belleza

alienor's review against another edition

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TW - Racist slurs (which are challenged and condemned, and do not come from the main characters)

Leave me alone. I'm innocent, he repeated to himself. I did nothing wrong.

Let's get this out of the way : yes, space princesses who seek revenge aren't new to the game. Yes, one cannot really praise [b:Empress of a Thousand Skies|30269126|Empress of a Thousand Skies (Empress of a Thousand Skies, #1)|Rhoda Belleza||47512648] for its unpredictability. Alright? We're good? Now let's talk about all the wonderful aspects that made me love it.

I've seen a lot of complaints about the somewhat misleading blurb, but I wouldn't know : I never read them. I also skip loooong plots recap in reviews, because they're boring? Like?? If I want to know the story I'll read the damn book, thanks?

It doesn't mean I'll go full blind, though, and I guess you won't either, so here's the gist of it : Princess Rhiannon - Rhee - has been living sheltered on a far-away moon since the death of her entire family when she was six. Now she's out to take revenge and claim her throne. Alyosha is a military/reality-star (I know, weird mix, but it works, I swear!) who's been trying to get people to accept him his whole life, but without avail, because he's black and the whole world is fucking racist. Think about a world - a universe, really - where almost everyone spend their whole life connected on the cube, a device that enhances memories and allows you to replay your favorites over and over again - and bury those you'd rather forget. Are you feeling uncomfortable yet? Good. You should be. Think about a world where it's okay for leaders to start a war to get their hands on a planet's most valuable resources, using systemic racism as a tool to prevent any kind of empathy towards the refugees these wars create. Oh, does it remind you of something? I figured.

I've read my fair share of "this is nothing new", "read this one instead" and I don't get it? Of course [b:Empress of a Thousand Skies|30269126|Empress of a Thousand Skies (Empress of a Thousand Skies, #1)|Rhoda Belleza||47512648] relies on a well-known structure! [insert a duh here] Now, I don't know about you, but I genuinely believe that a space opera with a diverse cast of characters and that tackles systemic racism, privileges, colonization and freedom of speech deserves all our attention. Don't you?

Add to this the privacy issues their cube creates, some of them terrifying, and you'll get a thought-provoking novel that has nothing to envy to many YA out there.

As for the world per se, it wasn't fully detailed but I still could get a sense of how the different societies worked - it includes different alien races, religion, and even some sort of UN (Aly's description was hilarious, by the way). Sure, the multiple alien races made it a bit confusing to navigate through at first, but you know what? I LOVED that we didn't have to go through pages-long descriptions about each race but rather discover their particularities little by little. So I realized 2 pages after that Derkazians were not humanoid, so what? I only had to pause one second and think it through when, you know, they barked. This is WAY less annoying and boring than regular fantasy novels that think I somehow want to read a textbook. Spoiler alert : I never do.

Ah, Rhee. She did get a fair share of hate from readers, didn't she? Well, color me surprised, but I actually really liked the girl. Sure, she made several mistakes, but I actually really enjoyed her growth - yes, she's been sheltered all her life and has some listening and growing to do, but who wouldn't? She does improve her behavior throughout the story. I don't ask characters to be perfect from the get go. No. They would be boring. I ask them to evolve, and Rhee did. On that note,
SpoilerI know people complained that Rhee was stupid for not taking that DNA pill instantly, but I mean? It would have changed her face? Her freaking DNA? She JUST met the guy who gave it to her? Like???? I must be a brat too because I would have hesitated as well. Yes, even if the guy just saved my life. I don't think a 30 minutes hesitation is hard to understand. Our history, our face are who we are. I genuinely believe that we all would be hesitant. I sure would.
Give the girl a break already.

Alyosha was a very interesting character, and my favorite throughout most of the book - remember when I said Rhee's arc would evolve? That's why it changed. But the truth is, the guy broke my heart.

There are so many times when Aly's POV made me shiver, furious.

When racist people are calling him a savage, a dusty, because of his color of skin and his status of refugee.

When he's been framed for a murder he did not commit because his fellows are supposed to be these angry, violent people according to the leader's racist narrative.

When he's trying to explain to his - white - best-friend how different their situations are and how he has to master his facial expressions, emotions and expressions for people to not be afraid of him or attack him. His best friend who cannot get it, because contrary to Aly, "he did whatever he wanted because people had always let him" - if this is not white privilege in motion, then what is it?

When he mentioned how people kept comparing his skin to some tasty food, too.

This is what makes [b:Empress of a Thousand Skies|30269126|Empress of a Thousand Skies (Empress of a Thousand Skies, #1)|Rhoda Belleza||47512648] a great book when others were crap : there is a huge difference between incorporating real world racist stereotypes in order to create "an evil race" versus "a good race" damaging narrative AND including these racist stereotypes to fight and condemn them. Many YA novels rely on the former.

[b:Empress of a Thousand Skies|30269126|Empress of a Thousand Skies (Empress of a Thousand Skies, #1)|Rhoda Belleza||47512648] does the latter.

Now that I closed the book, though, I can confess you something :
SpoilerI shipped Aly with Vin, his best-friend. It won't happen. I'm warning you because my delusions crushed my heart and I wouldn't want you to feel the same.
There is a little bit of a romance, but I didn't care for it. Nothing important enough to lessen my enjoyment, though, because it happened way far in the story.

Oh, and there's Dahlen! I haven't seen a lot of reviews mentioning him, so perhaps I'm just that weird to care about him but I DO. I'll let you discover him, though, because everything I could say could be considered as a spoiler. But, please, please give us more of him. The guy has so much potential!

As for the pacing, it was perfect overall. Every chapter ended on a cliff and I couldn't stop reading for one second. I actually had to and I growled. Out loud. It was that good. However, I did get a little annoyed at the way some events were played out - as in, off-page. Indeed I felt robbed several times after being let hanging there to discover two chapters after that the situation had ended without me. Ugh, no. Please don't do that. I have trust issues.

Finally : THERE IS A CUTE DROID OKAY (I actually wrote that while reading, lol).

If you want to read a diverse, exciting and thought-provoking YA novel, then [b:Empress of a Thousand Skies|30269126|Empress of a Thousand Skies (Empress of a Thousand Skies, #1)|Rhoda Belleza||47512648] is for you. Because even if I guessed most of the reveals, it didn't reduce my enjoyment. I'll eagerly wait for the sequel now.

Micro-aggressions to look out for - the word "crazy" is used a lot.

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libby1990's review against another edition

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3.5 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed this book. it's about our main character Rhee who is a princess. her family is all gone so she thinks. she is trying to take back her throne and she meets a lot of people. some people betray her and she has to kill to live her life to find her sister who is also alive. will the 2 sister find each other in time to stop the war that is starting up again. I will find out when I read the second book

toloveisdestroy's review against another edition

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For a debut, this book was very good. I truly enjoyed reading it deeply, but it also felt very short and it was hard starting in the middle of this girl’s life with the instruction manual for comprehending who was who or what.

Hopefully, I’ll get to read more from this author in the future.

peggy99blue's review against another edition

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I didn't like the characters, the writing, and the story all together...
I couldn't make myself to like it, I really tried but...

aquabak's review against another edition

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3.5 stars. This book was good, but it wasn't great. I thought the foreshadowing was a little too obvious and got a bit annoying after I figured out what was going to happen. Overall, I did like the plot, but a lot of things were too cliché for me to fully love the book.

hanna's review against another edition

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challenging emotional mysterious slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


This had some great moments, especially towards the end, and I loved the characters but for a duology, this one was too slow. I also would've loved some world building — this is a really interesting world but I just had so many questions!

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leontiy's review against another edition

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Actual rating 3.75 for: using "crazy" and "insane" to make the villain villainous instead of just an evil power-hungry son-of-a bitch, no queer existence, and a tiny bit of what I read as aspie-baiting with the sentence about Ally's brain being wired differently. As someone with ASD, either Ally is on the spectrum (so SAY so and make it clear) or he's not and use better wording around saying how he views blueprints etc and not "wired differently" because that's usually a go-to way of describing those on the spectrum.


This was *really good*, although the worldbuilding was quick and scattered and sometimes I didn't really know what we were doing or where and I think it needed to be longer. ALSO *cue broken record* some minute existence of queer people actually, you know, existing in the background would have been nice. Hence why this wouldn't have been given 5* even without the "what are we doing? who are we rebelling against? where are we?!" feelings I kept getting.

Worried that it's only a duology and that the worldbuilding won't get deeper/stronger, but I can overlook that because it was a pretty fun book and I loved it. Ally rocks.

queensflame's review against another edition

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I received this novel in Fairyloot’s February box. It was a novel I was highly anticipating and I was thrilled that Fairlyloot chose that novel for February’s subscription. The story has two points of view, Rhee and Alyosha, two characters caught up in a galactic Game of Thrones-esque plot. Rhee is attacked before she can rightfully take the throne and Alyosha is charged with her murder, even though Rhee isn’t exactly dead. So the two have to deal with that.

Now one thing I’d like to say – the synopsis really threw me. I thought Aly and Rhee met each other and were together the book, but they weren’t. Anyways, I’ll have to admit, starting off I was super confused. There were so many conflicts being thrown at me that I couldn’t figure out what was happening. However I pushed through and the more I read the book the more I understood the world. Therefore if you’re struggling with this book, give it some time for your brain to understand the info dump that is the first few chapters of the book.

This book reminded me a lot of Star Wars for some reason, with all the moving around and the planets and the backstabbing. It was very enjoyable though. I found Aly’s POV much more interesting than Rhee’s, only because Aly’s voice was more enjoyable and light and humorous. He goes through a lot in the book, and has to deal with discrimination towards his race and where he comes from. I really liked how the author portrayed his character and the wrongness of all the injustices.

The book had much action and I found myself easily making my way through the novel and enjoying all the ways everyone seemed to be linked to each other. I love it when there are two separate plots going on yet they accidentally cross paths or certain characters cross paths with each other.

My only complaint was the insta-love with Aly’s love interest. I just personally felt we didn’t SEE enough of the interactions between the two, since POVs switched often and a lot of time was skipped. But, the romance was only a small tiny piece of this novel so it didn’t really bother me in the long run, because I really enjoyed this book.

This is a fun, action filled and eye opening space novel that I think many readers will enjoy. It’s pretty short, I read it in a couple of days but if I had the time I could have read it in one sitting. The plot twist at the end really made the book though and I’m REALLY excited for the sequel. This is definitely a series I will continue.

jenbsbooks's review against another edition

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So ... I liked this, but I don't know how much I'll remember it (or if I'll continue for sure). I did find myself losing focus at times, getting distracted (multi-tasking while I listened to the audio). This had two POVs, Rhee and Aly. I had to remind myself that Aly was a guy, as it just feels more like a girl's name to me. It was all third person, so one narrator (female) and while the chapters switched consistently and were marked, I'd still lose track of who was telling the story, of which POV we were in. I pretty much called the "reveal" at the end of this one (it was pretty obvious).

This had a "Star Wars" feel to me ... just the descriptions and my visualizations of the planets, with all the different kinds of creatures, the conflicts. My mind was just picturing some scenes from the various Star Wars movies and this story really seemed to fit ... similar worlds.

Borrowed from my library. Was also able to grab the Kindle copy and I did glance at it and while the narration was good, I wonder if my mind wouldn't have wandered as much if I'd been reading it on my own.

july2104's review against another edition

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adventurous mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated