The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason is the first book in a sci-fi series which takes place in an unspecified galaxy. It follows the story of a refugee princess, Kayla, in her quest for survival/return home, the majority of which centered on a deal she makes with the imperial organization she hates the most in which she impersonates another princess in a fighting tournament to win the throne (winner becomes bride to the heir of the empire). Filled with politics, action, and conspiracies around every corner, this book was…okay.
I’m not usually a reader of science fiction, so I don’t really have much to compare it to, but I still found it quite enjoyable. Although, I have to admit that there were a few moments I found my eyes glazing over because of too much time spent on political maneuvers or over the top technobabble. Not to mention, I’m not sure how much of the technobabble was nonsense and how much grounded in any kind of reality – not a great position to have the reader in, especially when I noticed Mason slip up when she had one of her characters refer to light-years as a measure of time, not distance. …Ouch; the scientist in me just died a little.
Kayla, though, was pretty awesome. She was a tough fighter who didn’t let anything bring her down. A strong woman, overall, and any emotional breakdowns Mason wrote her into was completely warranted. She served her role well enough, but I didn’t really feel that much connection with her either. (Certainly better than Cole Randolph, though.) There was also a bit of romance that, while not forced, was a tad difficult to believe simply because it felt more like this: oh, look, a female lead and a male lead – they must end up together!
Anyway, the plot was intriguing, however, it kind of dragged at the end. When one conflict resolved, another sprung up. It was almost like the author just wanted to wrap up everything as quickly as possible – there just wasn’t enough set up and not enough connection between events. By the end, the latter half felt a little contrived.
Mason’s writing style was as good as the story itself. By switching between two character perspectives, she does her best in portraying the story through their eyes. It was…suitable for the book. …That’s seriously all I have to say about it. Her writing wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t absolutely horrid either.
I don’t know. Maybe this just isn’t the book for me. I seriously think it’s worth a once over, but personally, I’m not going to read the remainder of the series. Mason’s not an author I’m going to be invested in, but that doesn’t mean anyone else out there shouldn’t give her a chance. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be your next favorite series.
For a more detailed review, watch my YouTube video here. Warning: video contains spoilers.