Humanity is divided. The Galactic Empire is ruled by a dictator while the Free Planets Alliance desires democracy and autonomy from the Galactic Empire. The great imperial army will have none of that and seeks to force the rebels (Free Planets Alliance) back into the Galactic Empire. Two great military geniuses will face off again and again as this war rages on. Reinhard von Lohengramm fights for the Empire even as Yang Wen-li fights for the Alliance.
This book held a lot of promise and I was pretty excited to get my hands on a review copy. However, I was underwhelmed by it. While we have the two main military geniuses, there are many, many side characters and more and more get pulled into the story as the tale progresses. However, most of them are given little more than a name and station; I often felt like they were merely being described as game pieces. I found that I never really got attached to any of the characters. So this made it difficult to care about their motives or the outcomes of the few action scenes.
I was excited by the big sweeping background. There’s obviously generations of history built into the backstory of how this conflict came about. All of that comes through clearly. I was pretty intrigued by those characters that have engineered bits (like a replacement bionic eye) and the politics of the two factions concerning that. However, that turned out to be a very small part of the book and little was done with it. Much of the book is spent on characters contemplating the politics of the situation and this made the story rather slow for me.
I did enjoy that Yang is a fan of tea and that his ward, Julian, is rather fussy about how to make Yang’s tea. There’s also plenty of ethnicities represented by the characters. However, there are few female characters and they are often in support roles and/or romance interests. Their looks were usually the first (and sometimes the only thing) mentioned. Some of them, like Yang’s aide de camp Fredericka Greenhill, were given additional attributes. Women are allowed to serve in both militaries, but only in background, non-combat roles. This made me sigh. First, it’s fiction and we’re in the 21st century and women can be cast in lead military roles without ruffling feathers. Second, when an entire gender is cast in only support roles, this makes those characters rather predictable and that can make the story predictable.
The whole book was a meh for me. I have heard that this book first came out as a manga and I think that might be more interesting. I may or may not check that out at the library.
I received a copy at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Narration: Tim Gerard Reynolds does a good job with the numerous accents. However, in between dialogue, he tends to fall into a monotone, making him sound a bit bored with the book too. I really liked how he made Julian sound young and fussy. I also loved how his accents weren’t necessarily dictated by a character’s last name or his looks. After all, it’s a big galaxy and an Asian looking man can sound like a Tennessee gentleman.