Book Review: Behind the Throne (The Indranan War #1) by K.B. Wagers (published by Orbit)
This science fiction novel definitely did not live up to its description of an ‘action-packed’ ‘Star Wars-style science fiction adventure’ for ‘anyone who wonders what would happen if a rogue like Han Solo were handed the keys to an empire’. Instead it was a story of political/court intrigue where the main character Hail, a princess turned gunrunner turned princess again, spends most of her time going to a lot of brief meetings within the palace and a couple of public events where she’ll invariably survive an assassination attempt. There’s some action (or what I would call action) near the end.
Hail left her home planet to go in search of one of her father’s murderers (and we’re reminded of that a lot), when she doesn’t find him she becomes a gunrunner for one of the galaxy’s notorious gangsters (ditto with the constant reminders). When two Trackers arrive to bring her home twenty years later, her boyf dies in the crossfire (and we’re reminded of her grief at his loss a lot). She doesn’t want to go home (we’re reminded of that quite a few times too), but does anyway when she discovers her two sisters and niece have been murdered and her mother, the Empress, is terminally sick leaving Hail as the heir to the throne.
What follows is a lot of dialogue about who the murderers could be and why they are attempting to take the throne of the Indranan Empire. This conspiracy is interesting and involves family betrayal and intrigue. Hail has to slot back into court life, wrench back control and uncover the conspirators before they bump her off too.
I did not like Hail, and as the story is told from her first-person perspective, this killed the book for me. I thought she was going to be bad-ass but she has a tendency to cry, be on the verge of crying, or be fighting back tears. If she wasn’t crying then she was constantly biting back a sharp comment, accidently saying a sharp comment or thinking about a sharp comment. And if she wasn’t doing that then she was giving ‘Looks’ at people. There was a lot of characters giving each other ‘Looks’.
Instead of being rebellious I actually found Hail quite tame and all talk, no action. She wore what she was supposed to (there was a lot of mention of what sari she should get her maid to dress her in), she went where she was meant to (her chamberlain organised her schedule) and was generally told what to do by her male bodyguards (‘take a nap’, ‘go and rest’, ‘eat’ etc). The conversations between Hail and said bodyguards became tedious to read after a while.
This novel was rescued from my Did-Not-Finish pile by the worldbuilding and the intriguing matriarchal and matrilineal culture, as well as the references to the old culture and religion from Earth, which in this case was predominantly Indian and Hindu. I also particularly liked the idea of the ‘smati’, an implanted communication chip that delivers information and can communicate with other people’s smatis.
One for you if you enjoy court intrigue / political wrangling and a main character who says ‘bugger me’ all the time.
This was one of the books I wanted to read as part of my list of 20 SFF novels with a matriarchal society. You can see that post here.
My rating: 2/5
Goodreads | Author website | Publisher website
**My debut novel, an epic fantasy called MELOKAI, is out now! Available from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play Books, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Read more about my books here.**
Click here for your free ebook of my fantasy novella THE FALL OF VAASAR.
Click here for my Book Review Policy.
Are you on Goodreads? Let's be friends! Find me here.
Subscribe to my email mailing list to be notified about new releases, giveaways, price promotions, free books, free short stories as well as exclusive extra content.