The Em­press Game

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Books -

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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.

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