Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I wanted to think this might have been a vast empire-building SF epic, with spaceships galore and an underdog rise from the dregs, but no. Even the SF portions feel kinda tacked on, focusing more on taking a bit of world-building along the cultural lines and making a matrilineal succession the focus, instead, with an almost obligatory strong female cast to "round" it out.
In actuality, this is not really an SF except in the fact that it has cut and paste SF space-operatic featured over a very old "Princess-Turned-Pirate Returns to Court and Has Intrigue" Fantasy plot. I swear I've played this over twenty times in Japanese RPGs. But yeah, this is supposed to be SF, not Fantasy, right?
So what has the novel going in its favor? Bright first-person snark, fairly claustrophobic conflict, and decent interpersonal angst.
What could I have done without? A truly tired plot that is really just a slightly dressed-up fantasy in SF rags.
But what about the action? The intrigue? Wasn't that fun?
Um, yeah, it was okay. The action is something you have to wait for, and if you don't mind ferreting out traitors and dealing with the absolute terrors of being next in in line to a monarchy with all your siblings dead and mamma nearly so, then perhaps this is exactly the right kind of fairly-well-paced novel for you.
For me? I love my SF really juicy with ideas and innovation. This one just felt like it was a repurposed manuscript from the trunk of a paint-by-numbers Fantasy, sadly, with a politically-correct allocation of women and pasted-on cultural bits that were interesting in themselves but didn't leave me all that much to hold on to within the grand expanse of the novel.
Maybe I'm being too hard on the novel, and maybe not. It was very readable, but I just didn't enjoy it all that much. Maybe I've been spoiled by way too much truly good SF to be swayed by something like this, that feels flashy but doesn't have all that much real substance or courage.
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