Book Review: The Empress by S.J. Kincaid


So… I have pretty mixed feelings about The Empress , which is really a shame because The Diabolic was one of the most out-of-nowhere I-wasn’t-expecting-to-like-this-nearly-as-much-as-I-did books of last year. I just… wish I had liked it more because there were a lot of elements I LOVED . There just were a lot that I… didn’t. *sigh*

The Empress picks up shortly after the end of The Diabolic , and if you haven’t read that, get out of here. What are you doing? This is the sequel. I’m about to spoil you. Gone? Good. Nemesis and Tyrus are surrounded by political enemies, the religion of the Living Cosmos is still being super assholey, and people keep on trying to assassinate the new Emperor and his future bride. I won’t say anything else for fear of spoiling this book.

I’ll give it this: it did not go where I was expecting it to go. The plot twists had me constantly guessing as to what happened next and I was almost never right. It’s fast-paced (no second book slump here) and the world Kincaid created in the first book is expanded in thought-provoking ways.

My favourite part of these books is the setting. It is stellar (100% pun intended guarantee or your money back) and feels so relevant. There is this society where EVERYBODY LIVES ON SPACESHIPS and SOMETIMES SPACESHIPS EXPLODE AND RIP HOLES IN THE FABRIC OF THE UNIVERSE and NOBODY KNOWS WHY OR HOW TO FIX IT AND THEY NEVER WILL because a bunch of over-zealous religious people were like, “You know what our deities will hate us if we do? Learn about super important science that our society depends upon!” But these same idiots refuse to give up the technology that is making stuff bad, because that’s an A+ smart person move.


I also love that Kincaid made the distinction between religion being evil and people being evil. It just made the setting and the religious element of the world feel so much more nuanced, and, because of that, so much more interesting.

However, (sadly) setting alone does not a novel make! And, unfortunately, Nemesis, who I thought was awesome and badass in the last book, really annoyed me in this one. She was just so fixated on Tyrus, often to the point of idiocy, especially towards the end. It felt tropey, the kind of obsession I’d expect from a bad paranormal romance, not from a the sequel to a smart sci-fi story about what it means to be human from the point of view of a literal murder machine. To be fair, in some ways, it was a deconstruction of the trope but that doesn’t change the fact that Nemesis really, really frustrated me.

All in all, The Empress is a middle volume that succeeds in avoiding being a boring second book by having a breakneck, twisty-turny plot and a fascinating setting, but is centered around a character who’s decidedly less interesting than she was in the previous book. Despite all that, though, it ends on an intriguing note that will probably have me pick up the last book.

One thought on “Book Review: The Empress by S.J. Kincaid

  1. Pingback: Mid-Year Freakout Tag | Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts

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