Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers
Series: The Indranan War #1
Published by Orbit US on August 2, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Space Opera
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Meet Hail: Captain. Gunrunner. Fugitive.
Quick, sarcastic, and lethal, Hailimi Bristol doesn't suffer fools gladly. She has made a name for herself in the galaxy for everything except what she was born to do: rule the Indranan Empire. That is, until two Trackers drag her back to her home planet to take her rightful place as the only remaining heir.
But trading her ship for a palace has more dangers than Hail could have anticipated. Caught in a web of plots and assassination attempts, Hail can't do the one thing she did twenty years ago: run away. She'll have to figure out who murdered her sisters if she wants to survive.
A gun smuggler inherits the throne in this Star Wars-style science fiction adventure from debut author K. B. Wagers. Full of action-packed space opera exploits and courtly conspiracy - not to mention an all-out galactic war - Behind the Throne will please fans of James S. A Corey, Becky Chambers and Lois McMaster Bujold, or anyone who wonders what would happen if a rogue like Han Solo were handed the keys to an empire . . .
I really enjoyed Behind the Throne but not for (all) my usual reasons. I was a little skeptical in the beginning – Haili IS a runaway princess and that’s trope-y from beginning to end – but this was a runaway hit for me. I like that Haili isn’t a push over, she is decisive, she’s incredibly loyal, loves hard and tries to use her brain. Love all of that. Her backstory is rather flimsy to me but it’s acceptable. I also rather enjoy the relationships of the BodyGuards & Trackers.
But what really peaked my interest was the world building. It’s…strange and exotic and not completely explained. The Universe seems to be incredibly diverse, which is lovely. There are no questions of sexuality which I love as well – married same sex couples are mentioned but not exclaimed over – clearly a normal part of their empire. I also love that it’s a Matriarchy as well – though I could deal without the reverse sexism.
I have to wonder the history of the empire – the founding was touched on very briefly and never explains the rich Asian (seems to be mostly Indian with a light smattering of Chinese) background – including the bright colors, rich fabrics, lush embroidery and copious amounts of gold jewelry. They also seem to worship [some of?] the Hindu pantheon with Shiva and Ganesh being the gods I recognized immediately.
To find such a heavy specific influence in a Space Opera mixed with casual diversity and homosexual representation all wrapped in a Matriarchal bow just fascinated me. I loved how intricate it all was.
Another thing that makes Behind the Throne a surprise read for me was the sheer amount of action. From the first page almost to the last, Behind the Throne is pure action. There are numerous assassination attempts on Haili – and when people aren’t trying to kill her physically, they’re trying to kill her politically. And when that’s not happening, Haili is dealing with her mother. Let’s just say there is a reason Haili had to be be dragged back to the empire and it wasn’t politics.
And through it all, I learned to really love Haili and the way she builds relationships. I love how bloodthirsty she is. Haili is a girl that hasn’t met a fight she didn’t want to get into (and that she planned on winning).
“Poor [redacted], you need to keep up.” I spread my hands wide. “You didn’t think this through. You really should’ve killed me first. Leaving me to the end…” I tsked and shook my head. “Obviously that wasn’t a wise decision.”
I am SO reading book #2: After the Crown.