Disclaimer: I attended the same graduate school program as the author and consider her a friend; however, I purchased my hardcopy version of this novel for full price.

Often, middle books in a trilogy act as placeholders. Things happen, but mostly just to get the characters from point A (the exciting first installment) to point B (the hopefully epic final book). Mason’s second book in her Empress Game trilogy is much more in “Empire Strikes Back” territory. A truly excellent novel in its own right, with enough twists and turns to make me genuinely fear that the characters might not even make it to book 3. This includes a truly stunning plot twist that I never saw coming.

In true space opera fashion, the stakes get bigger in this book, not just for the characters, but also for universe they inhabit. While Kayla is still very much the hero of her own story, other characters in this world never feel like mere secondary supporters. All of them, from Kayla’s love interest Malkor to her twin brother Vayne, have their own interconnecting sagas to play out.

While this book was long, it never dragged as I read it. Mason’s narrative style flows easily, and each of her point of view characters maintain distinctive voices. I’m excited to see what happens to everyone next, in the final installment of the Empress Game.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Currently reading: Home Birth (Kaiju Revisited #2) by Jessica McHugh

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