The Empress Game
Release Date: 10 July
352 pages | Paperback Author: Rhonda Mason Publisher: Titan Books
Setting up a fictional
universe is tricky. The world has to be familiar enough to make sense, but not too familiar; otherwise, what’s the point? Rhonda Mason, whose debut novel this is, tackles the challenge head- on, creating a universe full of warring aliens, long- held grudges and weird futuristic plagues.
Interplanetary politics take centre stage here, as nobles from across the galaxy come together to take part in an ancient ritual. The rules of the Empress Game are simple – it’s just a series of one- on- one fights – but with the eventual winner getting a crucial vote in the way the empire is run, the scheming that goes on behind the scenes is anything but. Our heroine is Kayla, a former pit brawler who’s been brought in to impersonate a politically savvy but physically feeble princess in the Game. The only trouble is, Kayla’s already got a secret identity, and her mysterious past is about to catch up with her...
The tournament itself is pretty disappointing; it’s the least interesting thing about this book, consisting of a string of repetitive matches we know Kayla won’t lose. Still, the elaborately drawn backdrop of the empire means this is more than just The Hunger Games in space.
Maybe there wasn’t enough room in this book to explore it properly, but as it’s the first of a planned trilogy, all that imagination won’t go to waste. Sarah Dobbs Rhonda Mason’s writing companion is a sleepy English bulldog by the name of Princess Gracie.