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Empress of a Thousand Skies

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Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta'an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne - and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding - even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee's name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

314 pages, Hardcover

First published February 7, 2017

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About the author

Rhoda Belleza

4 books529 followers
Rhoda Belleza was raised in Los Angeles, where she grew up writing XFiles fanfiction and stuffing her face with avocados. When she's not writing, Rhoda obsesses over nail art tutorials, watches kung fu movies, and sews together crooked things that pass for clothes. She's a children's editor at a publishing house and writes from a sunny Brooklyn apartment stuffed far too many bikes and far too many shoes. Empress of a Thousand Skies is her debut novel.

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5 stars
1,406 (17%)
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3 stars
2,761 (34%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,408 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews294k followers
January 2, 2018
“Was there really so much hatred in the universe, so much prejudice, even among people who claimed to be unbiased? Had this always been true?”

Wow, this was... unexpected. I don't know about you, but these days I don't have very high hopes when it comes to the latest YA Fantasy/Sci-fi with a pretty cover. And, you know, Empress of a Thousand Skies was not the book I thought I was getting into when I picked it up. A male/female alternating POV, space travel, an empress trying to reclaim her throne... sounds like a mash-up of Carve the Mark and The Lunar Chronicles, right? But it's actually so so much more.

I've seen reviews from others who thought this book was nothing new, or who compared it to Marissa Meyer's series, but I guess I get to say "it felt like I read a completely different book" for a positive reason this time. Empress of a Thousand Skies had breakneck pacing, diversity, ZERO romance until the very end of the book, and it took on some really important, timely issues.

For me, this is exactly what science-fiction/speculative fiction should be. Belleza offers up a whole new universe of possibility, complete with power struggles and the threat of war. Into this, though, she also considers issues of race and racial profiling, technology, the media and privacy issues.

We see a charismatic leader drumming up support for his campaign by promising to get rid of the dark-skinned Wraitian refugees and immigrants who were displaced after the Great War. We see Alytosha "Aly" being framed for a crime he didn't commit because of the colour of his skin - because everyone knows Wraitians are violent and unstable, right? It was deeply disturbing to see how much a dramatic and dangerous fantasy world could mirror our own.

Perhaps even more terrifying, however, were the issues of privacy, and how technology continues to limit it. Most people in this world have a "cube" installed, which allows them to be online at all times and keeps a record of their memories. How great is it that you can revisit your memories or easily absolve yourself of a crime by showing people your cube playback? Except... what if others - hackers, the government, etc. - could get into your cube and spy on you? Or worse: change what's there? What if they could rewrite your memories to create the story they want? It makes me think of how easy it is to edit a screenshot of a post or tweet; how these days we can make it look like someone tweeted something - anything - that we want.

So, yes, there is the expected YA fantasy "throne reclamation" going on, but there's so much more, too. And Rhee's story is, in itself, quite compelling. Many chapters end in evil cliffhangers to keep us hanging on breathlessly, and I especially liked the growth and development of Rhee's character. She starts so young and naive, but is allowed to change and adapt as the novel progresses. It felt natural and realistic, as did her survivor guilt after her family's accident.

There are many reveals, some I guessed and some I didn't, but overall, I enjoyed this book so much. Entertaining, but with a lot to think about as well. I would have just liked it to be longer.

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Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
611 reviews87.5k followers
March 18, 2017

This was a super fast read but it was almost rushed. I was very confused and bored quite frankly for the majority of it. I felt like the story wasn't very well fleshed out. It had tons of potential but just ended up falling flat. The characters were flat as well. I just didn't connect with them, or anything else about the story. The concept was cool but I just felt lost, frustrated because I couldn't figure out what was going on, and then bored for the majority of it. Writing was pretty good and the world was cool (if it had been developed more that would have been even better). I also enjoyed the fact that it dealt with important contemporary issues in an away setting. It wasn't awful, but I wasn't a big fan, hence the 2.5.
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,439 reviews78.1k followers
February 23, 2017
Ugh. I'm torn; parts of my loved this and parts of me were bored to tears. I decided on a 3 star, middle ground "I liked it but it didn't blow me away" rating. I may try to read this again when the second book comes out to see if I like it more at a better time, but it was somewhat predictable (who names a character Nero and expects the plot to be a shocking twist?) and a stretch. Definitely potential there but we'll see.
Profile Image for Simona B.
892 reviews2,985 followers
March 6, 2017
DNF at page 176/314

“Had she even ever bothered to find out?”

Am I being too harsh on this? Probably. But try to put up with all the things I'm going to list down below, and then we'll see who's the saint here.

Rhiannon is a brat, and I'm not even a bit sorry people won't let her forget it. In spite of having no proof whatsoever, she made up this conspiracy theory when she was little, convinced herself of its truth, and never reconsidered it afterwards (forgive me, you spoiled, inconsiderate wimp, but it really seems to me like you've never really given much thought to it to begin with). She also never told anybody about it all her life, nurturing this supposedly supreme knowledge into a need for revenge she bears in silence like a freaking martyr, and she doesn't even have the decency to not be surprised when it turns out . Assuming idiot, are you now.

→ And on top of that: basically, are you telling me that the fate of her empire depends on this theory she has and she couldn't carve out three seconds of her time to properly ponder the problem in years? I don't even know what to say to that.

Alyosha is a petty jerk. The kind of person who decides to keep potentially life-saving knowledge from his best friend because this friend himself had “held back so much for so long”. Yeah right. You're so mature you're basically one breath away from falling off your tree, baby. And, being well aware he can do better than that, some chapters later he proceeds to halt the pod he and his friend are using to flee from a group of soldiers clearly intentioned to kill them, because the friend won't apologize for “getting [them] into that mess.” And even when the friend apologizes, it's not enough, because he must “say it like [he] mean[s] it.”
Kill. The brat. Now.

→ In order to flee from a certain situation, Rhiannon has to take a pill capable of rearranging her DNA so that she becomes undetectable. This Dahlen guy gives her this pill. They get into trouble because the pill slips from Rhiannon's hands and she can't find it anymore.
Dahlen, what kind of idiot thinks that bringing just ONE pill is a great idea?

→ The story is continuously interrupted by these flashbacks that are nice in the beginning, but grow old pretty soon and heavily hinder the flow of the plot.

“You've been blind–blind and wilful.”
GOT IT DARLIN'. You can stop repeating it now.

→ If the actors in a movie talked the way the characters of this book talk, I would say the screenplay sucks. They all say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
The scene when is awkward. If why shouldn't he just tell her? Oh, yes. Stupid me. Because if he had the book would have ended so much sooner.
The scene when is awkward. Guy 1 is about to kill Guy 2, whom we don't want to be killed, shouldn't we tackle Guy 1 or something? No, let us be stopped by the first obstacle and just chat a bit.
The whole book is awkward. Really, it's all a matter of poor writing and storytelling. This pretty much sums it all up.

•The one good thing the book had to offer is its take on racism: Alyosha is dark-skinned, and he gets framed for a crime he didn't commit basically due to the colour of his skin. I would have love to know where this plotline would take us, but, I'm sorry, my patience has a limit.

➽ I didn't like the book in general, but the main problems where insufferable protagonists and improbable, unnatural and forced dialogues and situations. The world building was rather confusing too, but that was just the lesser evil. I'm not saying Empress of a Thousand Skies couldn't appeal to anyone, but at one point I just couldn't take it anymore. More and more idiocies kept coming, and more and more often I had to push the book out of my sight and think about something else for one minute or two before I could go on. I wish you all better luck with it.
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
839 reviews3,760 followers
February 15, 2021

TW - Racist slurs (which are challenged and condemned, and do not come from the main characters)

Leave me alone. I'm innocent, he repeated to himself. I did nothing wrong.

Let's get this out of the way : yes, space princesses who seek revenge aren't new to the game. Yes, one cannot really praise Empress of a Thousand Skies for its unpredictability. Alright? We're good? Now let's talk about all the wonderful aspects that made me love it.

I've seen a lot of complaints about the somewhat misleading blurb, but I wouldn't know : I never read them. I also skip loooong plots recap in reviews, because they're boring? Like?? If I want to know the story I'll read the damn book, thanks?

It doesn't mean I'll go full blind, though, and I guess you won't either, so here's the gist of it : Princess Rhiannon - Rhee - has been living sheltered on a far-away moon since the death of her entire family when she was six. Now she's out to take revenge and claim her throne. Alyosha is a military/reality-star (I know, weird mix, but it works, I swear!) who's been trying to get people to accept him his whole life, but without avail, because he's black and the whole world is fucking racist. Think about a world - a universe, really - where almost everyone spend their whole life connected on the cube, a device that enhances memories and allows you to replay your favorites over and over again - and bury those you'd rather forget. Are you feeling uncomfortable yet? Good. You should be. Think about a world where it's okay for leaders to start a war to get their hands on a planet's most valuable resources, using systemic racism as a tool to prevent any kind of empathy towards the refugees these wars create. Oh, does it remind you of something? I figured.

I've read my fair share of "this is nothing new", "read this one instead" and I don't get it? Of course Empress of a Thousand Skies relies on a well-known structure! [insert a duh here] Now, I don't know about you, but I genuinely believe that a space opera with a diverse cast of characters and that tackles systemic racism, privileges, colonization and freedom of speech deserves all our attention. Don't you?

Add to this the privacy issues their cube creates, some of them terrifying, and you'll get a thought-provoking novel that has nothing to envy to many YA out there.

As for the world per se, it wasn't fully detailed but I still could get a sense of how the different societies worked - it includes different alien races, religion, and even some sort of UN (Aly's description was hilarious, by the way). Sure, the multiple alien races made it a bit confusing to navigate through at first, but you know what? I LOVED that we didn't have to go through pages-long descriptions about each race but rather discover their particularities little by little. So I realized 2 pages after that Derkazians were not humanoid, so what? I only had to pause one second and think it through when, you know, they barked. This is WAY less annoying and boring than regular fantasy novels that think I somehow want to read a textbook. Spoiler alert : I never do.

Ah, Rhee. She did get a fair share of hate from readers, didn't she? Well, color me surprised, but I actually really liked the girl. Sure, she made several mistakes, but I actually really enjoyed her growth - yes, she's been sheltered all her life and has some listening and growing to do, but who wouldn't? She does improve her behavior throughout the story. I don't ask characters to be perfect from the get go. No. They would be boring. I ask them to evolve, and Rhee did. On that note, Give the girl a break already.

Alyosha was a very interesting character, and my favorite throughout most of the book - remember when I said Rhee's arc would evolve? That's why it changed. But the truth is, the guy broke my heart.

There are so many times when Aly's POV made me shiver, furious.

When racist people are calling him a savage, a dusty, because of his color of skin and his status of refugee.

When he's been framed for a murder he did not commit because his fellows are supposed to be these angry, violent people according to the leader's racist narrative.

When he's trying to explain to his - white - best-friend how different their situations are and how he has to master his facial expressions, emotions and expressions for people to not be afraid of him or attack him. His best friend who cannot get it, because contrary to Aly, "he did whatever he wanted because people had always let him" - if this is not white privilege in motion, then what is it?

When he mentioned how people kept comparing his skin to some tasty food, too.

This is what makes Empress of a Thousand Skies a great book when others were crap : there is a huge difference between incorporating real world racist stereotypes in order to create "an evil race" versus "a good race" damaging narrative AND including these racist stereotypes to fight and condemn them. Many YA novels rely on the former.

Empress of a Thousand Skies does the latter.

Now that I closed the book, though, I can confess you something : There is a little bit of a romance, but I didn't care for it. Nothing important enough to lessen my enjoyment, though, because it happened way far in the story.

Oh, and there's Dahlen! I haven't seen a lot of reviews mentioning him, so perhaps I'm just that weird to care about him but I DO. I'll let you discover him, though, because everything I could say could be considered as a spoiler. But, please, please give us more of him. The guy has so much potential!

As for the pacing, it was perfect overall. Every chapter ended on a cliff and I couldn't stop reading for one second. I actually had to and I growled. Out loud. It was that good. However, I did get a little annoyed at the way some events were played out - as in, off-page. Indeed I felt robbed several times after being let hanging there to discover two chapters after that the situation had ended without me. Ugh, no. Please don't do that. I have trust issues.

Finally : THERE IS A CUTE DROID OKAY (I actually wrote that while reading, lol).

If you want to read a diverse, exciting and thought-provoking YA novel, then Empress of a Thousand Skies is for you. Because even if I guessed most of the reveals, it didn't reduce my enjoyment. I'll eagerly wait for the sequel now.

Micro-aggressions to look out for - the word "crazy" is used a lot.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Laura.
425 reviews1,244 followers
February 7, 2017
Princess Rhiannon is the sole survivor of the Ta'an legacy. Her family has had the throne for twelve generations. And if Rhee has her way, that won't stop now. She is finally turning sixteen in a week meaning she's coming of age and can take her throne. The only thing standing in her way is the vengeance she plans to take. When she was six, her entire family died in a crash officially called an accident, but Rhee knew it was murder. Her father had just signed the Urnew treaty ending the Great War. Narrowly escaping an assassination attempt, Rhee is alive while the world thinks she is dead. All the while, she is trying to find out who she can really trust.

Alyosha is one of the stars of The Revolutionary Boys, a reality show that films Aly and his partner Vincent doing their UniForce job. The show has a following. Aly also happens to be a refugee from a planet that got bombed as a part of the Great War. His planet's people are viewed poorly. This opens him up to being accused of assassinating the princess forcing him on the run for a crime he did not commit.

Get ready for extremely complex galaxy politics! There are a lot of different planets with a rather deep history among them. It is a little hard to understand where exactly all the planets are in relation to each other especially with settlements on moons and planets. I did appreciate the great use of diversity. The story is filled with futuristic tech, which is pretty cool. Most people are equipped with a cube. It is basically a thing that records all your memories. There are also droids and cool details to the spaceships that really bring to life that space setting.

At times, the story was a little slow. I kept waiting for Aly and Rhee's paths to finally cross, but that never actually happens. Hopefully in the sequel? The big twist at the end is extremely predictable especially if you pay attention to details in the plot. It bothered me how the characters didn't get it, though. I do want to see where the story goes next and how things end up for Rhee, Aly, and the rest of the characters. If you read a lot of YA sci-fi, don't expect anything completely original. This is still an entertaining enough read.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,799 followers
May 18, 2017

Going in, I legit thought this book was going to be another over-the-top, dystopian, love triangle, tragedy that leaves me in tears from boredom and forced angst.

- Interesting, unique expression of a commonly used idea/plot
- Dual povs
- Alyosha is my son
- Deals with politics and racism
- Ugh
- Plot twists were more like revelations revealed over a long time but still intertaining
- Ending leaves a lot open for the next book to be fantastic

- The writing was good but with v underdeveloped concepts
- I was confused a lot of the time
- Took time to get used to it
- And lots of plot holes – not explained well enough
- Miss attempt @ sarcasm
- Too many bloody characters to keep track of

So I really don’t have much to say besides that but just know that despite my rating, I am hooked on this series and im HIGHLY anticipating the next book! Gimme!

“If all we are is what people think we are, then we’re all screwed.”

3.5 stars!!

Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
October 11, 2017
People always measured war in terms of the numbers dead. Maybe they should measure it in terms of people left behind.

Uhhhhhh. This... was not terrible. I'm seeing a lot of positive reviews for it, as a matter of fact. And holy CRAP if it isn't filled with potential!! But I gotta say, this wasn't nearly as good as I expected. I expected solid gold and I got... boredom with some missed potential here and there.

In honor of the wasted potential, we'll be contrasting potential-filled aspects to bad aspects here.

♔ // GOOD: The worldbuilding is super intriguing. Belleza blends in a narrative about racism and war, and I have to say, I think it's well-executed. The parallels to our own world are impactful and very politically relevant. There are also cubes which everyone uses to access memories, and while Belleza could've fleshed that concept out a bit more, it's an interesting piece of tech.

♚ // BAD: At times the connections to our world are sooooooo heavy-handed. I'm not saying they're bad - they're maybe the best part of this book - but jesus christ, I figured out the parallels to illegal immigration on page 15. It can be subtle! Your readership understands it! Use of the word “deportation” over and over for example, makes the already interesting parallels between this world and our world totally unsubtle. AND ALSO!! The planet index only mentions 50% of the planets, and doesn't explain how they orbit. I mean, what the fuck does the quadrant system mean? Aren't all these planets moving at different speeds, given that each is a different distance from the sun? Are they just in these quadrants temporarily? Either way, the story wasn't made that much easier to follow.

♔ // GOOD: The overarching plot is interesting. There are twists and turns and nothing is ever as it seems.

♚ // BAD: Unfortunately number one: I guessed the final twist. Unfortunately number two: the plotting is convoluted and confusing. It is so obviously meant to keep you guessing and keep you on your toes and it does not work at all because none of the twists ever impact the full plot!! Also, let's talk plot contrivances. The dropping of a pill due to clumsiness is used as an actual important plot point. Also, how the fuck did Aly survive that one event? I genuinely did not understand anything that happened in that one chapter.

♔ // GOOD: Rhee is the morally ambiguous badass we have all been wishing for and hoping for. She is badass but still not afraid to break down. She has so much opportunity for growth. She doesn't have a romantic storyline. Belleza has something great here with this character.

♚ // BAD: Rhee's character changes based on where the plot needs her. She keeps having moments of “oh, I had a realization and now I am More Mature!” and yet she never seemed to actually develop as a character. Rhee makes a decision around page 150 that contradicts both human logic and everything she plans to do in literally the next chapter. I am not joking. She does, in fact, change her mind twice in three chapters.

♔ // GOOD: I flew through the last 50 pages without even glancing at how much I had left.

♚ // BAD: It occurred after I spent three. hundred. pages. being. bored. Yes, I'm in a reading slump right now, but up until the last 50 pages, I felt NO motivation to keep reading. And you know what the problem is? The writing. Belleza has that debut-novel issue where it's in third person and the characters are talked about in this removed sort of “she knew this” and “he thought that” way. And it is exactly why this book feels so boring.

♚ // A FINAL BAD: The plot is convoluted, with genuine potential getting bogged down by confusing twists and holes. Get rid of all the unnecessary twists to the plot, and you have a 100-page book.

♔ // A FINAL, AND MAJOR, GOOD: But here's the thing: I would want to read that 100-page book.This book is not your typical cliche sff. Rhoda Belleza has a great setup, good worldbuilding, no romance, and a good main character to work with in the next book. She clearly has the talent to make book two a five-star read. Will she do it? Maybe.

VERDICT: Great concept, great ideas, bad execution and wasted potential everywhere. If the sequel is better, this series could easily make my recommended list. But I'd wait and see first.
Profile Image for Lucia.
733 reviews805 followers
June 16, 2017
I am sad to say that after promising start, Empress of a Thousand Skies went donwhill pretty fast for me and I lost interest in story and characters quite early in.

It all comes back to poor storytelling. I didn’t like the way individual chapters were composed. Told in dual POV, each chapter ended with its own cliffy, then it switched to different POV with different setting and when we got back to previous POV, everything was resolved and we were just informed what had happened but never shown. In short, this book is another example of telling not showing which resulted in narrations feeling impersonal and boring to me. The only plus was that it was easy to distinguish between „voices“ of individual POVs.

My other problem was the lack of believable character transition. How was I supposed to believe that this immature childish girl is meant to be an empress of galaxy? It felt as if author was aiming to create her heroine as someone between warrior princess (typical badass YA heroine) and politics-smart (like Kestrel from The Winner’s Trilogy) but failed completely. To me, Rhee was just this sheltered girl ruled by her thoughts of revenge and blind to everything else. I don’t require perfect characters. On contrary, I love flawed ones. But reading about teenage foolishness doesn’t tickle my fancy.

I’m disappointed, I expected so much more from this book. I expected that it would present more complex world and plot on a larger scale but I was mistaken. Simply said, Empress of a Thousand Skies can’t even hold a candle to most other sci-fi books that I have read.

And the biggest disappointment? Misleading blurb! Empress and fugitive never even met. And THAT part of the blurb was the reason why I picked this book up in a first place…
Profile Image for Jasmine from How Useful It Is.
1,295 reviews342 followers
February 7, 2018
Empress of a Thousand Skies – Review & Blog Tour

About: Empress of a Thousand Skies is a young adult fantasy written by Rhoda Belleza. It was published on 10/31/17 by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Random House, paperback, 352 pages. The genres are young adult, science fiction, and fantasy. This book is intended for readers ages 12 and up, grades 7 and up.

My Experience: I started reading Empress of a Thousand Skies on 1/28/18 and finished it on 2/2/18. This book is a great read! I love the futuristic feel in the story with the cube for instant connection and memory playback to everyone and everything. I love following those adventures with Vin and Aly, including their reality TV show. Their banter is fun. I like the high tech with machine police called robodroid that can detect lies during an interview on the go. Traveling in outer space and galaxy is a plus! I love the epilogue and I’m excited to read book 2!

This book is told in the third person point of view following Rhiannon (Rhee) Ta’an, crown princess and the only surviving heir to the Ta’an dynasty in Kalu, a populated planet in the galaxy. Another point of view is Alyosha (Aly) Myraz, a Kalu UniForce soldier and star of a reality TV show called The Revolutionary Boys originally from Wraeta, another planet but was destroyed during the Great War against Kalu. Rhee has been preparing herself the past 9 years to avenge her family’s death, but an attempt to assassinate her the day before she was to take back the throne only speed her revenge faster. Only when she ready herself to kill the enemy, she is left with a new discovery that the person she thought was the enemy may not be the enemy after all. She is now faced with a mystery of who truly wanted her family dead and who was it that wanted to steal the throne. Aly, a foreigner living in Kalu struggles everyday to fit in. Everything he’s known and familiar with suddenly goes against him. He is caught in the middle, blamed for the princess’ assassination, now is a fugitive against the law of Kalu. The hunt is on for him and he has to stay alive to prove his innocence before it’s too late.

This book is well written and organized. I like the start with escape and revenge to keep me hooked. I like the concept of “enemy against the state” with Aly running for his life and the law searching for him. I like his adventures with his droid Pavel, reminds me of a cute droid from the Lunar Chronicles. Despite Rhee having trained to combat for 9 years, she only use those skills once to fend off her assassination, and yet with help. She couldn’t use her combat skills to teach those zeppelin’s securities a lesson. Aly seems to have trust issues but he is ready to follow Kara anywhere without knowing the real her, “rich kid or ambassador visitor”. Rhee is too quick to blame just about anyone for her family’s death with just a gut feeling. The ending is excellent even though I was able to guess it. With few setbacks, the story is still an interesting read and I do recommend everyone to read it!

Pro: fast paced, page turner, outer space, futuristic, fugitive, some humor

Con: Rhee has combat training but she doesn’t uses it and she takes words at face value without proofs, blame one person and if it’s wrong, then blame the next

I rate it 4 stars!

***Disclaimer: Many thanks to Penguin Young Readers for the opportunity to read, review, and host a blog tour! Please be assured that my opinions are honest.

Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews838 followers
March 4, 2017
Not bad, but a little... boring? Predictable? I saw the twist in the end from miles away. But so many things (and not just the ending) felt way too convenient, throughout the story.

***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
Book One of the Empress of a Thousand Skies series
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he's forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

What I Liked:

I don't think this book was terrible, but it was great for me. I can see myself reading the second book next year, since it's the conclusion to this series. Duologies are awesome. But I wasn't all that impressed by this book. For all the hype I've seen from certain bloggers and the publisher itself, this book isn't actually that special.

This book is told from the POVs of Rhee, and Aly. Rhee is Crown Princess, set to become Empress on her upcoming sixteenth birthday. She is on her way to the planet where she'll swear her oaths when she is attacked and nearly killed. A mysterious boy named Dahlen rescues her, and she escapes the ship with him. But everyone thinks that she is dead, and the Regent has assumed power and has declared war on other planets. Her death has been blamed on the star of a DroneVision show, Alyosha. Aly is Wraetan, which is why the princess's murder is pinned on him. With a hefty bounty on his head, he is forced to flee. He meets a strange girl on the way to freedom, and he learns things about the technology everyone uses that shakes him to the core. Rhee is fighting for her throne, and Aly is fighting for his freedom. There is only one path to both of those goals, and no matter the choices, it involves war.

I love science fiction, especially YA science fiction. This type of science fiction reminded me a little of Star Wars. There are ships and space travel and species of creatures other than humans. There is a man trying to claim power as Emperor who is similar to the Emperor of Star Wars. There are droids, good and bad - the good one, Pavel, is awesome.

Rhee starts the story as a girl trained in secret to take the throne as Empress. She is desperate to get revenge on her family (parents and older sister), who were murdered years ago. The man who had them murdered has the power, but not for long, with her claiming the throne. She is blind and naive, in the beginning. As the story goes on, she becomes smarter, less blind, and more cognizant of the fact that ascending the throne and having her revenge wasn't going to be easy, with or without the attempts on her life.

While I didn't dislike Rhee, I liked Aly much more. He is a Wraetan refugee who joined the galaxy's military at a fairly young age, and gained fame as part of a duo that is featured on a show on DroneVision. His buddy Vincent turns out to be someone with a lot of secrets - not just the golden boy of the show. Aly is a smart guy, and he is a creative mechanic who seems to be able to build anything out of a few parts. I liked Aly's change of attitude - he goes from being comfortable in his current life and wanting no part of wars and revolutions, to accepting his fugitive fate and trying to stay alive. He does what he can to clear his name, but even that isn't enough.

Points to the author for including a cast of diverse characters. I believe Rhee is supposed to be Filipino-inspired, in features? Tanned skin and black hair - though I'm not sure for certain. Aly has black skin. You don't often see a black protagonist in YA science fiction (I'm talking primary characters).

There are two very important secondary characters that I liked a lot. Dahlen is the boy who rescues Rhee and tries to get her to where his order resides. His order (sort of like a religious order) is extremely important in the story, though this is revealed very late in the story. Dahlen has a lot to fight for, and a lot of secrets. The other important character is Kara, a girl that Aly encounters and they end up saving each other's lives. Kara is as street-smart as Aly, and the pair become inseparable.

This book is written in dual POV, and I think this really worked for the story. I do take issue with a small part of the synopsis (which I'll discuss below). But I liked how the storylines were completely separate, working towards different goals that end up aligning as the story goes on. I can't say I was totally immersed in the story, but I did like how it was told.

The ending didn't really shock me? As soon as a certain plot point and then another thing was introduced, I knew. There is one more book to follow, so it'll be interesting to see how certain things play out. I'll probably read the second book, if only to see how the story wraps up.

What I Did Not Like:

This book was a little on the boring side. Sure, I can forgive most slow-starting fiction novels, especially science fiction ones. I don;'t necessarily mind slow stars, as long as the rest of the novel picks up. But with this book, I never felt like the story picked up. I mean, the climax arrived and it definitely felt like the climax of the story, but the entire story really went at a slow pace. I think the story might have benefited more if both book one and book two (which has not been published yet) were combined to make one large standalone.

On that note? This book was rather short? I flew it very quickly, despite being bored almost out of my mind. It's less than 350 pages which, to me, is short.

I think Aly's POV was what kept me reading? I liked him a lot, and his droid Pavel. Pavel reminded me of C3PO in Star Wars. Rhee's POV... meh. She gets caught, she escapes, she gets caught, she escapes, rinse and repeat.

Let's talk about that line of the synopsis that pissed me off a little. It says:

"With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy."

Let's revisit the define of "together", shall we? In proximity, in contact, in union. It can also mean simultaneously, very loosely. The synopsis makes us believe that Rhee and Aly will literally be together, occupying the same space. This is never the case. They only "interact" one time, and it's a scene in which they make eye contact, and then Aly leaves the scene. Neither really recognize the other (well, Rhee might have recognized Aly, but Aly couldn't make recognized Rhee given her effective disguise). So... they weren't "thrown together". And they're not even technically confronting the same "ruthless evil". Rhee is facing off with a tyrant, and Aly has been exposed to a terrible evil that Rhee learns about in the last pages. Their goals align, but they're not really facing the same thing. I know that might not make a lot of sense, but I don't want to spoil too much.

Anyway, do you see my point about that line of the synopsis? It's misleading and annoying, because I kept waiting for Rhee and Aly to physically meet and then work together. If that line hadn't been in the synopsis, I wouldn't have cared. Instead, Rhee spent the majority of the novel following Dahlen, and Aly spent about half the novel with his buddy Vincent, and the other half with Kara.

Romance - there is romance on Aly's side (you can probably guess), but not on Rhee's side. I don't care either way. Rhee and Aly isn't going to be a thing, purely based on the fact that they haven't even met yet. I do hope we get to see Rhee spend time with her childhood friend whom she had to leave when she boarded the ship to be sworn in as Empress. That would be a cute romance! Anyway I'm not bothered by the lack of romance, but just not that there isn't really any. And definitely do not expect Aly and Rhee to get together or anything (in the romantic sense, or otherwise).

The plot with the technology - so the technology is kind of big deal in this galaxy. There are these things called cubes that you have attached and implanted (but it's external, so you can touch it). You can store memories and parts of yourself self (from your mind) in the cube, so you can always have that information. Everyone is always "online", and when they come "offline", they feel discomfort and sickness. There is a big plot twist about the cubes. My complaint is that I literally do not understand how the cubes work, or what they even look like. The author did a very poor job of explaining the cubes and their appearance. Notice how I gave a vague description of the cubes? It's because I didn't get a good feel for them. In theory, the technology sounds interesting (though painful in terms of installation), but I wanted to know more about how they work and what they look like. Especially since they become a big deal, towards the end of the book.

My final complaint - what is up with that title? Literally no one becomes Empress, in this story. I don't think it's fair to name a book "Empress of a Thousand Skies" when there is no Empress in this particular book. Maybe name book two "Empress of a Thousand Skies"? We'll probably have an Empress by then. But in this book, Rhee is Crown Princess, and then she is nothing (she has to go into hiding after the attempt on her life). The title is neat and catchy and flowery, but doesn't really make sense in the context of this book.

Would I Recommend It:

Ehhh, not really. It's not a bad book! But it's also nothing new, nothing intriguing, nothing life-changing. It's not a bad book, but it's not nearly as OMG-THIS-IS-SO-GOOD as a few bloggers I've seen made it out to be. Conversely though, there have been some bloggers on Goodreads that absolutely did not enjoy this book. So I know I'm not alone! If you're a fan of YA science fiction, like me, this one might be a little disappointing. I can point you in the direction of much better space-related science fiction novels, futuristic science fiction novels, and other science fiction novels in YA in general.


3 stars. I didn't really hate the book or feel negatively toward it, so I'm not going to give it 2 stars. There were parts of the book that I liked overall (Aly, Pavel, the dual POV), but for the most part, the novel is nothing special or particularly entertaining. Not a waste of my time, but noth a book I feel strongly about (either way). I think I will read the sequel though, because it should be more interesting and exciting than this book.
Profile Image for Fafa's Book Corner.
512 reviews298 followers
April 14, 2018
Review posted on Fafa's Book Corner!

Beware spoilers ahead!

Empress of a Thousand Skies was taking the book community by storm. Not surprising considering that synopsis. Coupled with all the 5 star author reviews. I was hesitant to pick it up. While I enjoy Sci-Fi, I have found that the most popular YA Sci-Fi has not been for me. I was in the bookstore and I saw Empress of a Thousand Skies. I started to skim and knew that I needed to buy this book. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

Rhee is preparing for her coronation. She has finally come of age to take the throne. While preparing Julian's (her best friend) father comes to see her. Much to Rhee and the readers surprise he attempts to kill her. In self defense Rhee murders him and creates a ceremonial killing. To let whoever sent him know that she's coming from them. Before the whole ship blows up she is rescued by a stranger.

Aly is quite disappointed to hear that Rhee was murdered. Her murder disrupts a peace treaty between all the planets. After filming an episode for DroneVision Aly and his partner Vin go to investigate a mysterious space pod. While Vin goes off, Aly comes across the pod and opens it. Much to Aly's surprise there is a grown man murdered in a ceremonial killing. Aly realizes that Rhee is alive and attempts to connect his superiors. After being chased by unknown droids Aly is framed for murdering Rhee.

Empress of a Thousand Skies really surprised me! I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. The writing is in third person in the points of view off Rhee and Aly. There's a planet map and a character list. It is divided into parts and in the beginning of the those parts there is a text of history. Which gave some interesting incite and provided for extra world building.

Once I begun reading I had my doubts. Rhee wasn't exactly that likable and she could be really stupid. Every time I would think to myself 'Huh that doesn't make any sense' or 'This is really dumb'. I swear it was like the author could read my mind! Belleza would then come in to show and explain us why that certain thought process was written as such. This is how the whole book went for me. I came to appreciate this because it made the characters feel real and flawed. Not Mary Sue's or Special Snowflakes.

My favourite thing about Empress of a Thousand Skies was how well the diversity was done. Aly is a black and Rhee is Chinese. Black stereotypes was actually used as a plot device to propel the war to come. Aly dispels all these stereotypes and I really felt for him. Rhee also mentions who everyone hints at her too small eyes and make other jabs at her.

Sometimes it felt like I was reading about our world. Belleza did an amazing job showing how fear, racism, and hatred can propel a war. And how easy it is for some people to believe everything they are told. 

Religion does play a huge part of the story. As there are so many races' each one has their own religion and belief system. A part of the peace treaty is respecting each planet's religion rather than colonizing them. 

Another plus is that there's barely any romance! It is hinted but the romance takes a backseat for the plot. This is a journey book. There's a considerable amount off travel/running away. I felt that it was done well! As it was actually fast paced. To be honest a lot of the plot is predictable. But I still found myself enjoying it and was eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

You know all those cheesy future movies which always show a cell-phone in the brain? Belleza actually does that. The Cube is inserted into the brain and has some cell-phone features. You can call people and even message them. You also have to update it. What's most interesting is that you can replay memories. Rhee does this quite often.

Now of course once she escapes Rhee has to deactivate her Cube. Rhee begins to experience 'Organic' memories. Like flashbacks coming to her whenever she thought of something. It was really interesting to read about her comparisons of the Cube vs. Organic memories. Similar to how we discuss people missing out on experiences for their phone. The Cube becomes a huge plot point as it can be hacked.

Belleza doesn't hesitate to kill off characters. There are 4(?) characters killed off in Empress of a Thousand Skies. I did think some of these characters would play an important role. I was surprised when they were killed off. I wonder how many people will die in Blood of a Thousand Stars?

Despite what the synopsis says Aly and Rhee do not meet each other. They vaguely look at each other but never actually interact. They happen to be in the same places at the same time but again no interaction. I really don't understand why the synopsis states as such. 

Rhee spends a majority of her story arc consumed by revenge. Her point of view is written formally. Rhee's family is a huge part of her arc, as she believes they were murdered. Her sister in particular was in a lot of flashbacks. I enjoyed reading about the flashbacks as they give some more insight into her past.

Rhee has a crush on Julian and the two have known each other since they were children. Surprisingly Julian will likely make an appearance in Blood of a Thousand Stars. He comes in the last chapter. Considering that she killed his father it would be very interesting to see where their relationship goes.

Rhee has a crew of sorts. The guy who saved her (Dahlan) brings a few people to help Rhee in her quest to take the throne. Dahlan himself is consumed by revenge. They each have that in common. Which made for an interesting relationship between the two. Rhee grows a bit past her revenge and chooses to act instead of chasing various people.

Aly's point of view is much more chill than Rhee's. There are made-up swear words and he uses them often. Aly is actually a refugee from one the planets that used to be at war with Rhee's planet. His family also plays a huge role and why he does not want to go back home. There are some flashbacks about his family and his time in a refugee camp. I felt that they were well written and I enjoyed reading it!

Vin who is his co-worker on the tv show DroneVision is vital to the story. It is revealed that Vin is in fact a spy and has had suspicions of the attack on Rhee being staged. Aly doesn't exactly take this too well. But I really couldn't blame him as it was a lot to take in. Still their friendship was fun to read and well written.

Aly meets a girl whose name is Kara while on the run. Kara is looking for her mother who was a scientist. She went missing along with other important people at a summit meeting. The two make an alliance to help each other. It's through Aly's point of view that readers find out about the Cube experimentation.

I am giving Empress of a Thousand Skies an extra star for all the issues that Belleza discussed. Without getting preachy.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Empress of a Thousand Skies! I will definitely be reading Blood of a Thousand Stars. I highly recommend it for everyone. 
757 reviews2,346 followers
Want to read
July 6, 2018
this has super low ratings because everyone says it’s really slow and boring.

i’ve been trying to read this for the past week, but i can’t make it past page ten because i keep getting distracted and finding myself rereading from the beginning because i zoned out, lmaoo. this is my third attempt at itttttt.
Profile Image for Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky).
256 reviews433 followers
February 16, 2017
1.5 Stars

This novel left me colder then an asteroid in deep space.

The novel utilises a lot of cheap tension building tricks that felt unearned. There were also several niggling irritations that ruined my immersion in the story.

The Hidden Info Dump

Whereby the author tries to avoid large info dumps by beginning the novel in media res but accidentally inserts flashbacks and info dumps into the opening scene. Made worse when the reader discovers there is no real danger and the character is actually trying to be a condescending dickhead to her friend/ crush by refusing his thoughtful gift and delaying an entire spaceship to do so.

I know this probably sounds nit picky but it is symptomatic of the novel as a whole. Literary techniques, poorly applied, that constantly remind me I am reading a novel. I read a quote the other day where someone said "they keep writing until it doesn't sound like writing anymore". This novel is a perfect example of what the quote was saying to avoid. All of the plot, structure and character techniques used could work but they are too obvious.

When I can see the threads that make up the tapestry it stops being a beautiful work of art and becomes an ugly pile of fabric.


Don't set up a situation in which one character is meant to be the "big bad" and then name another character Nero. I was not surprised by this twist- in fact any 9 year old who has watched Horrible Histories is going to figure it out the first time they see a character called Nero. (If you haven't heard of this show click the link, it's hilarious.)

The problem is it created false tension that, as a reader, I didn't believe. For a substantial portion of the book the question "will Rhee reach the regent and get her revenge" drove the plot without driving my interest. It was so clear she had no idea what was really going on. I was impatient for the obvious reveal, instead of excited or confused.

TSTL protagonists

Rhee and Aly were so reactive. They had no plans, confused goals and kept acting in stupid ways. It is hard to feel anxiety and anticipation about a plot and the fate of characters when they are acting like balls in a pinball machine.

Manufactured Tension

Tension must be earned.

I remember coming across advice years ago from one of those no name authors that sells writing advice like a multi-level marketing scheme suggested writers end every chapter on a cliffhanger. At the time I thought it was stupid advice. This book really proved why.

So many chapters end on a "hook" where either Aly or Rhee appear to be about to die- seriously nearly every chapter, some examples;
- choking to death
- Spaceship crash
- Explosion
- Killer robots
- Trapped in room with Nero
- Captured by guards
- Fisticuffs
- Overdose
- Prison
- Trapped in a room with Nero (again)

I didn't believe that Belleza was going to kill off her protagonists and I felt no doubt whatsoever that the bumbling fools would wriggle their way out of trouble. This left me feeling irritated not excited.

Well written books can keep me hooked with seemingly low stakes questions. Unbecoming a YA novel which is driven by the questions "will grandma be put in a nursing home", "will the women in this family ever understand each other", and "will the protagonist admit she is gay" had no fast paced action, no near death scenes and no cheap "hooks" at the end of chapters. But I was riveted. I felt intense anxiety for the main characters. I knew what they wanted and I desperately wanted them to succeed.

In Empress I felt no such investment. The characters didn't know what they really wanted and so I didn't care what they got.

Fake swearing

Taejis Taejis Taejis

Look I've seen firsthand reviews where people have panned a book because it included swearing (Between Shades of Gray being dnf'd for piss, bitch and shit was the craziest example). I also recognise that with a YA base you don't want to alienate the potential gatekeepers for your main audience (parents of teenagers).

...However, I find fake swear words insufferable. I found myself mentally replacing taejis with shit every time I read it which slowed me down and destroyed my immersion in the story.

I don't mind phrases that add colour to the world (Merlin's beard!) but I think writers should make a choice and stick to it. Either let your characters swear or don't. Fake expletives annoy everyone.


Again with the cheap tricks. We know who Kara is ffs. It was so fucking obvious who she was supposed to be!

Amnesia can only be employed in two circumstances. The first is if you write mills and boon books about domestic violence and glistening abs.

The second is in novels that frame the amnesia in such a way as to drive character development- where it is an essential experience for the character. When I know a character has amnesia so the author can massage the plot in the hopes of another book deal, the novel has failed the "acceptable amnesia" test.

For examples of when amnesia works as a plot point consider basically any book with the name Alice in the title published in the last 5 years. ;)


The book read like a deliberately constructed paint by numbers YA. It reminded me a lot of how I felt after reading Rebel of the Sands.

Everything should have worked. But nothing did.
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,710 reviews701 followers
February 14, 2017
I went into this book expecting to love it. I mean, look at that cover. And the synopsis sounded awesome. Plus I had seen lots of high reviews calling it a space opera. Sadly, I was quite disappointed.

I didn't really connect to Rhee or Aly. At first, I enjoyed the story and I figured the parts that were a bit meh would be fixed when they got together. You know, because the synopsis says they're "thrown together" yet, that never happened. There's one brief scene where they glance at each other from across the room, but they have no interaction the story.

I did like the dual POV, I'm always a fan of that. My main problem was that there would be all sorts of dramatic build up to end a chapter of one character and when we would get back to them, everything was resolved. We didn't see whatever happened, it was just stated and then there was a time jump.

As for the world building, I legit have no idea what's happening. I loved the idea of the cubes and all of the plot around them, but by the time the reveal started happening, I was bored.

There was an interesting bit at the end, but it was much too little and far too late for me. I doubt I'll be reading the next book.

**Huge thanks to Razorbill for providing the arc free of charge**
Profile Image for Sue (Hollywood News Source).
781 reviews1,594 followers
April 28, 2017

Honor, bravery, loyalty–these made up her ma’tan sarili, the three values.

I was an everyday Kalusian greeting, but it meant much more than hello or goodbye. It translated to “highest self,” and to say it was a pledge to be the best person you could be.

In a time of heightened political turmoil, Empress of a Thousand Skies is relevant more than ever. Even though, this is a space opera, the story parallels the contemporary world we live in. It’s a tale of Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, the last of her clan, who’s determined at avenging and reclaiming her throne. It also interlaces the fate of Alyosha, a refugee reality star, who was falsely accused of killing the future Empress.

With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

It’s an epic battle of planet wars, heroic rebellions, vengeance, and the true spirit of a dynasty which is freedom and unity.

Empress of a Thousand Skies has a deliberate pace with a dauntingly technical world building. It’s set in a galaxy with diversified planets and moons. Every habitat has complex culture, mythology, language, religion, and social constructs. Some species are also different than others. There is a cult-like appeal. The politics and nuances are well established. There’s an intricate structure of classism and, racism. It’s by far my favorite aspect.

The heroine, Rhee grew up only knowing survival instinct. She's always in a defense stance–wary of people attempting to kill her. She grew up only wanting to avenge her dead family. She's an orphan who's not allowed to go home. An empress without a throne.

Then, there's Aly. Another war orphan who only knows survival. He who has been hardened by the horrors of humanity. He's a refugee who only wanted the basic needs of life. Though, fate loves nothing else but to spite its heroes.

The characters are relatable, you can’t help but root for them. You won’t agree with their choices sometimes, but you can also understand where they’re coming from. I love the barbed humor, especially Aly’s. Rhee’s naïve ruthlessness, her strangeness to power. The privilege was also acknowledged.

I did see some of the twists that were thrown in, but damn that epilogue would certainly string a handful of readers. I shed a tear. There’s no romance, but there’s an underlying possibility. I’m excited for all the things the sequel would explore! Empress of a Thousand Skies is perfect for Star Wars and SAGA fans.

Do you want to read a refreshing story about resistance led by brown and black characters? It’s time to pick up Empress of a Thousand Skies. This is the revolution, I could get behind.

Review also posted at Hollywood News Source.
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,057 reviews907 followers
March 30, 2017
I'm on the fence with this one! I loved it but some parts were just all right. There just needed an extra push to be a four star or five star. Something along the lines of twists and turns and maybe more action? Also if the plot had a more direct way of telling the story than being broken up into parts. The writing is just lovely and easy to digest. This was a political sci-fi space opera, so deeply similar to our society today. Told in alternate point of views from Rhee and Aly, the story plays out well, without really converging together. Did I mention that there isn't really a romance? And that it was wholly refreshing? Only a smidge at the end, but you were rooting for them anyway so it was nice to read!

I liked the parallels of everyone's cubes that are so similar to our cellphones. Maintaining a news feed of one's memories *cough cough Facebook* that are recorded at will. And how the government is using the cube to spy on everyone. Even the dark skinned Wratens being committed for a crime he didn't commit because he was just a scapegoat. I enjoyed all of those parts immensely. What it lacked was the emotional depth of the characters and their missions. I just needed to care more about them and I wasn't able to get it. The back and forth of their memories were a little jolting because I like pacing where everything is moving forward instead of backward, but I fully understand why the author did that. I just found it a little too disorganized for my taste.

Overall, I really enjoyed her writing I will continue on with the series because I'd like to see what happens with Rhee and Julian.



If all we are is what people think we are, then we're all screwed. (183)

Was there so much hatred in the universe, so much prejudice, even among people who claimed to be unbiased? (200)

People always measured war in terms of the numbers dead. Maybe they should measure it in terms of the people left behind. (206)

Like there rumours the government was hacking data from individual cubes without permission. (271)

Profile Image for Cindy ✩☽♔.
999 reviews782 followers
January 9, 2018
Rating ~3.5

Alright, let me start off by saying I really did enjoy this book. It was overall pretty fun, action-packed, adventure. It tackled a lot of important themes as well, from politics, social inequality/racism, scientific advancement and how it can infringe upon basic human rights etc.

And honestly, this book could have been a solid four if the two main characters did not start annoying me toward the end.

Rhee - She's the last remaining princess of the Ta'an Dynasty, who is on a quest to avenge the death of her family by killing the man she believes responsible. But she quickly proves that she is exactly what people think she is, a spoiled, sheltered, entitled princess who thinks herself an expert fighter/hardcore badass. Spoiler, she is not.

Her youth was a deficit she'd have to make up for with cunning and strategy if she were to take back her throne.
My reaction to this line: Of which you have demonstrated none, but sure whatever.

Honestly, though time and time again people tell her that she has the fault of acting first and thinking later. She even acknowledges this fact numerous times, but she just seems to do the same thing again and again. Acting impulsively and making demands as if people owe her something. So yeah, not my cup of tea.

Aly - Aly has at least one major thing going for him, and that is that he is not Rhee lol. Now don't let the synopsis fool you, these two are not traveling buddies or allies (at least not yet) they don't even officially meet in this book at all. But a meeting is certainly in their future, that is for sure. Now Aly is a genuinely good guy. He tries to do the right thing, behaves well, works hard, and honestly just wants to fit in and be excepted. But as luck would have it, he gets framed for murder instead. That being said, trust me the guy makes some pretty poor decisions as well.

For those who are sick of romance-focused books, this might be a nice break for you. There is very limited romance in this book. Except for a few moments of pining and a little more romance at the very end.

All-in-all, I enjoyed the writing and pacing of this book. But I do wish we were given a little more detail on how our protagonists manage to get out of some of their stickier situations, rather than just coming back to story to see that the problem has been resolved.

Despite my complaints about the main protagonists I do truly like the book overall and I look forward to seeing where this journey is headed.
Profile Image for Taylor.
767 reviews420 followers
February 24, 2017
This book was almost everything I wanted it to be and more.
I absolutely fell in love with the word building and the characters were amazing. I'd never read a "space opera", as this was repeatedly described as, but I loved it. It was so exciting and fun and I couldn't get enough of it. It was a little confusing at times but I didn't mind.
I really liked the characters even though I never became emotionally invested in them.
The only reason I gave this book four stars is because the synopsis says Rhee and Aly "are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy" and that never happens. It felt like false advertising and a marketing ploy.
But other than that, I loved this book. Empress of a Thousand Skies has diverse characters, an awesome concept, and killer world building.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
February 7, 2017
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/01/29/...

The last couple years have seen me get a lot pickier with my choice of YA reads, the key reason being that originality is such a rare quality in the genre these days. That’s why when I first came upon the description of The Empress of a Thousand Skies, I thought it showed promise—because sometimes, it’s not what a book’s blurb says that seals the deal; it’s what it doesn’t say. Despite the synopsis being rather short and vague, I liked how it mainly focused on the roles of the characters themselves and the way these mini-profiles teased possibilities and potential.

First, we have the Empress—or soon-to-be Empress. Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, affectionately known as Rhee, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty that has ruled the galaxy for hundreds of years. Today, on her sixteenth birthday, she will come of age and return to her seat of power to take back her rule, which a regent has been holding for her in trust ever since Rhee’s parents and older sister were killed in a starship crash. Everyone called it an accident, but Rhee knows in her heart that it was not. For the last ten years she has been training and preparing for this day, the day she will be crowned Empress so she can finally take revenge on the one who orchestrated her family’s death.

However, the enemy’s reach is long and before Rhee can reach her destination, she becomes the target of a last-ditch assassination attempt. Against all odds she manages to survive, but the official word gets out that she has been killed, with the deed being pinned on a well-known reality show star. Enter Alyosha, the Fugitive. Overnight, Aly goes from being adored by fans to becoming the most wanted man in the galaxy. Now he is on the run, desperate to clear his name and find out why he has been framed. Meanwhile, Rhee teams up with an unexpected ally on her quest for the truth, and together they forge ahead with her plans to expose a Madman and to stop them from plunging the galaxy into all-out war.

So, did Empress of a Thousand Skies meet my expectations? Well…yes and no. While I had a good time with the book, it also didn’t take me long to realize the story wasn’t going to blow me away in the originality department as I’d hoped it would. Books featuring that timeworn cliché of a sole surviving royal character seeking vengeance for their murdered family are a dime a dozen, and I was really hoping Rhee’s story was going to add something more to this, but it didn’t. In fact, the entire book was rather predictable, with a plot that felt heavily formulaic and on-rails like a theme park ride you’ve been on many times before. Overall, the book’s themes and messages were commonplace and relatively bland. Even the “twists” were pretty well scripted in advance, with foreshadowing that’s so obvious that anyone paying close attention will know exactly what’s coming.

There was also this sense that the author wanted us to like her protagonist, and yet the story never failed to drive home Rhee’s many shortcomings every chance it could, with an almost cruel consistency. I wanted to root for Rhee, I really did, but the writing itself made that hard to do when it was constantly reminding me what a spoiled and sheltered princess she was, whose naiveté always steered her wrong or made her plans seem half-baked and ineffectual. Poor girl could never catch a break.

And yet, you know how there are movies you can watch over and over again without getting bored, the ones you can still enjoy even when you can recite all the lines and know when everything’s going to happen? Reading this book was a little like that. No matter how predictable the story got, I never stopped having fun with it. There was also enough to keep me interested, especially Aly’s chapters which offered a more unique point of view. And while world-building was a little lacking, there were a still a number of details that jumped out at me, such as the cool tech or the political relationships between the different cultures. It would be nice to see the next book elaborate on these areas.

For a YA novel, Empress of a Thousand Skies doesn’t bring anything terribly new to the table, but it’s still a pretty solid debut. The book was fun despite its flaws, the main ones being the story’s predictability and the weak development of the main character, but all that can be overlooked if you’re just looking for an entertaining read. It is the first of a planned duology and I am definitely planning on seeing it through to the end.

Audiobook Comments: As an audiobook, Empress of a Thousand Skies was the listening equivalent of “unputdownable”. Because their stories are relatively straightforward, I find that YA novels typically make for very fast and addictive listens, and this one was no exception. I’m also no stranger to the work of Rebecca Soler, one of my favorite audiobook narrators, having been a fan of hers since listening to her read Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles series. Since she always puts everything into her performances, I couldn’t imagine Soler bringing anything but her A-game to this one, and I was right.
Profile Image for Melanie (TBR and Beyond).
509 reviews366 followers
October 21, 2018
“If all we are is what people think we are, then we’re all screwed.”

Ok, so I think I might be a big fan of science-fiction. Who knew? I've been turning my nose up at it for years. Thank you Illuminae for showing me the way and leading me to awesome books like this one!

Empress of a Thousand Skieswas a really fun ride. I have seen a lot of mixed reviews on this novel, people seem to love it or hate it. I'm in the love camp on this one. The idea of a princess getting revenge for her dead families death is about as cliche as it gets, nothing new is being brought to the table in that sense. However, I felt like it was done in such a way that I was still very pulled into the story and forgot that it was a major trope at all. I think that speaks volumes for the author. Some people weren't a fan of Rhee but I thought she was great. Rhee was very flawed, somewhat selfish, immature at times and impulsive. That's what I loved though. She was only 16 years old with the weight of the world on her shoulders, of course she is going to be all of those things. Most of us are without that kind of massive pressure. I felt like her character developed slowly over the course the book as she had to face the reality of her situation and the true peril she was in. I'm really excited to see where her characters goes in the next book.

Alyosha was a fantastic character, his story was more interesting to me in this particular novel. His character had more-depth and had been through more. The character is black and deals with issues of racism, it was painful to watch him be treated as a second class citizen or worse in many of the situations. Aly was fairly guarded but his relationship with his best friend Vin is what made him really shine. Their friendship was humorous and very touching. I won't give too much away about this one because there are some reveals that are really well-executed and might have brought a little tear or two to my eyes.

The world building is ok, I wouldn't say it's fantastic. I wish a map would've been included, it would've been much easier to grasp all the places they were talking about. It wasn't that hard for me to get the jist of it though. The political intrigue is great in this one, sometimes I get bored when the politics goes too in-depth but this one was a great balance I though. As for romance, there was some but it was far from the focus of the book and it wasn't distracting at all. The book ended on a cliff hanger that I did predict, and I think most will, but it was still one that makes me wanting the next book like yesterday.

Overall, I would say check this one out. It's fast, it's accessible - even if you aren't a science fiction fan and the cover is beautiful (yes, totally a reason!).
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,316 reviews215 followers
June 20, 2018
Predictable and boring.

Before diving into Empress of a Thousand Skies I definitely had some expectations for it. I mean, the cover was beautiful and the synopsis sounded amazing. Yet diving into the book, well.. it was a very underwhelming and completely predictable.

It's a dual POV betwen Aly and Rhee. Aly, who is a guy even though my brain kept thinking girl, is on a ship with his best friend Vin. I loved their bantering friendship and definitely thought Vin was the comedic relief I needed so much. Well, until the rug was swept from under their feet and shit started to get real. Before I dive into that, well Rhee is a lonely orphan princess who is hiding on a planet because someone murdered her family.

Low and behold, her sister is actually alive and the love interest for Aly. After the first part of this book, things started to get pretty predictable. However, it did give some tiny good twists or at least different versions of a character. I was still very much bored while reading this book but I'm happy that it's finally over.

In the end, I kind of liked Rhee but I also didn't at the same time? I'm glad that she knows how to protect herself but she went from not wanting to be the princess or take over the thrown because of what happened to her family.. to finding out her sister is actually alive and wanting to take the thrown. I get that there's some stupid ass war brewing.. but she could've actually tried to look for her sister beforehand.

Then the romance between Aly and Kara and it just felt rushed to me. I didn't really care for it. Actually, I think a lot of stuff was rushing in this book and I have no idea if I want to dive into the second one.

Overall, it was a meh book that had potential to be a hell of a lot better than it was.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,263 reviews222 followers
June 7, 2017
A fight for the sole rule of a barely-fleshed out generic space empire between very stupid people which doesn't even have the grace to come to a conclusion in this disappointing YA SF.

The Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta'an (Rhee) is the last surviving member of the Ta'an dynasty, the rulers of the Kalusian Territories which seems to be at least the planet Kalu (and more, the text is completely opaque about anything to do with the what, who and how of government). Until Rhee becomes an Empress at the age of 16 (?!?) the Empire (it's never called that) is being run by the Crown Regent Seotra. Rhee is also quite convinced that Seotra killed her family and wants her dead as well. Of course.

So on the way to her sixteenth birthday celebrations and coronation, her long-time mentor and martial arts teacher tries to kill her. She fails to stop this (get used to it, Rhee is not only amazingly stupid and ineffectual, she's immature for even a 15-year old), but is saved by somebody else (get used to this too). Suddenly the planets that she's on are full of stormtroopers Tassin guards who seem to be looking for her, even though she's supposed to be dead. The Tassin's are also stirring up racial hate and xenophobia and whoever is in charge of them seems determined to start a war with Kalu's neighbors.

Meanwhile, the young guy that's been framed for the murder of Rhee has a whole series of adventures of his own which often come tangentially (and stupidly coincidentally) close to Rhee's. He also befriends a mysterious character whose identity is pretty much obvious from the first time she appears.

Well, fairly early on and I was rooting for the bad guys (but not so much - see below). Under no circumstances should Rhee Ta'an be allowed near the throne. Her concepts of evidence and revenge would have just about guaranteed that the interplanetary empire that she would have gained control of would be suffering extinction level events in pretty short order. However, the bad guys are deeply incompetent as well. In a system of pervasive neuro-technology, space travel and an all-encompassing monarchy, surveillance systems and intelligence services would have to be ubiquitous and sophisticated, right?


After the apparent murder of the only member of the royal family, the powers-that-be and apparent conspirators can't find either the deeply stupid princess or the just-as-stupid supposed-assassin even though neither of them make much effort to avoid capture. In fact, the bad guy with a really obvious bad guy name, is so dense that I'm actually thinking that the best thing for society is for this lot to have their apocalyptic war and let's see if the cockroaches can start over with a better one ...
Profile Image for Brittany (Brittany's Book Rambles).
225 reviews451 followers
February 15, 2017
4.5/5 Stars

Read my full review of Empress of a Thousand Skies

Empress of a Thousand Skies would best be described in three words: constant adrenaline rush. From the very moment you start reading, there is a tremendous amount of intrigue, action, and grief. It's one of those books that is impossible to put down because laying it aside for even a second would disrupt the energy of the moment. Rhoda's writing style pulls you in, leaving you feeling just as passionately immersed in what's happening as the characters themselves.


For the most part, the book is written in dual POVs. I personally preferred Alyosha's POV over Rhiannon's, but they are both wonderfully intriguing characters, and I loved getting to know them. Another great thing about this book is that it's one of the most diverse reads I've encountered all year, and it's written by a POC author, which is awesome! It's definitely the kind of book that's important for people to read and spread the word about right now.

Overall, Empress of a Thousand Skies is a hard-hitting, compelling, and fast-paced story that sci-fi lovers will definitely enjoy.
Profile Image for Vikki.
271 reviews51 followers
Want to read
March 13, 2017
UPDATE: @abdulia_ortiz on Instagram won! Congratulations!

Book Giveaway!

I am giving away a copy of Empress of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza. To enter:

1) You must be a friend/following this Goodreads account (tiggertheturtle)
2) Leave a comment below telling me your favorite author
3) Must be 18 years of age or have parental consent
4) Open internationally
5) No giveaway accounts
6) This giveaway is no way endorsed, sponsored or affiliated with Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, or Wordpress.
7) You have until March 10th to enter. Winner will be randomly selected March 12th.

For additional entries (4 entries per person total possible):
1) Follow me on Twitter @tiggertheturtle and follow directions on my Twitter giveaway post
2) Follow me on Instagram @tiggertheturtle and follow directions on my Instagram giveaway post
3) Follow me on Wordpress https://tiggertheturtle.wordpress.com and follow directions on my Wordpress giveaway post

Good luck to everyone and happy reading!
Profile Image for Anissa.
67 reviews895 followers
November 26, 2016
One of the best sci-fi books I've ever read, full of surprising twists, memorable characters and diversity. Loved it!
Profile Image for Caitlin.
339 reviews700 followers
November 12, 2017
3.5 stars! You know what? I actually liked this book in the end. I enjoyed the beginning but the middle made me lost interest but by the end I was really excited again. I understand why lots of people don’t like it but I think it has its high points.
Profile Image for Choko.
1,200 reviews2,583 followers
April 7, 2020
*** 3.75 ***

Not bad for a start. A young adult Space Fantasy about a young princess about to step into her adult duties, when her unknown enemies act against her, throwing her life and the life of a young man into chaos and danger. There are different species of aliens involved, as well as a ton of chase sequences, a lot of immature outbursts and decisions made reacting without thinking, hopefully in order to see the characters grow as the story goes along, and thank goodness, almost no romance whatsoever. There is a sympathetic robot, some politics, but most of all the subject matter is concerned with the fragility of racial relationships on macro and micro scales, and the rights to privacy in a world increasingly dependent on technology and our dependency on it. Those are quite large themes to tackle and still attempt to achieve an action packed and entertaining read. I think the author does a good job in achieving that overall, but there are trends of oversimplification and a bit heavy-handedness with how it is handled. Despite that, the book is enjoyable, and I personally would enjoy it even more if the main character would be just a tad less annoying... As I said, she has an ample room for growth 🙂

I definitely plan on reading the next book and I have high hopes for it, so fingers crossed!

Be safe and I hope you enjoy a good book while being home 🙂
Profile Image for monica kim.
202 reviews6,072 followers
March 10, 2018
I’m so confused by the reviews for this book! It was such a fast-paced rollercoaster of a read with interesting, complex DIVERSE character. It doesn’t rely on romance to push characters forward and isn’t afraid to tackle difficult subjects like colonization and the manufacturing of war and propaganda and SO MUCH MORE. It’s a super timely book, and I cannot wait to read book 2!
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