Review: Whitley: The Empress

Book Cover
title: The Empress
author: S.J. Kincaid
pages: 378
format: Hardcover
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 2/5
It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.

But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.

Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost. He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must do inhuman things, is the fight worth the cost of winning it?

This felt like less of a plot and more of a series of disasters.

One of the previous book’s greatest strengths (IMO) was the introspection and the way the main character discovered herself and her ability to be human through increasingly complex character interactions. It was a decent study of what it means to be human and how to define one’s self. This book…kind of tossed all that away in favor of kicking the main characters repeatedly.

There was a lot less introspection or even development in this book, because no one was really allowed time to pause, recover, learn, or grow. While I did, at first, enjoy the machinations and watching as Nemesis and Tyrus tried to out-plot their enemies, it grew tiresome when they never won anything. “Let’s try this.” *fail* “Okay, well how about this.” *fails harder* “Well maybe-” *fails before it even got started* I don’t need my heroes to be uniformly perfect and always win, I don’t even need for them to ultimately win (it is only the second book in a trilogy), but I would appreciate some ups and downs, rather than just a straight downward trajectory. Watching characters I like endlessly get kicked while they’re down is just disheartening.

And since it spends so much time kicking characters and then chasing after them to kick them again, there’s not a lot of space leftover for what made the first book enjoyable. The side characters, the interactions, the quiet moments that made the twists actually shocking. By the end of this book, I didn’t feel shocked, I felt let down. Let down and frankly uninterested in seeing what happens next.

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