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Book Review: Behind the Throne, by K.B. Wagers

I purchased an e-copy of K.B. WagersBehind the Throne from the dreaded ‘Zon.

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.

my review
I’ll say up front that this book didn’t turn out to be what I expected. The cover led me to expect a woman of action, out effecting change in the world(s). What I got was a woman who spends a lot of time changing from one fancy dress or sari to other fancy suits, drinking a lot of chai, and effecting change by dent of surviving, mostly thanks to the efforts of the men around her (who she allows to make most of her decisions and looks to for plans and instruction almost constantly).

And I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the book. I actually did. I liked all the characters. I liked that it had both male and female characters of note, but no romance. I loved that Hail was almost 40.  I liked the writing, the humor, and the world. But the book wasn’t what I was hoping for.

What’s more, it kind of failed in some of what it was. It tried really hard to subvert gender norms by giving the reader a matriarchy where men are largely and systematically disenfranchisement (as woman have been in the past). But it was just lip service. As others have pointed out, if you made Hail male and the guards female, this book wouldn’t work. It’s simply too firmly entrenched in expected gender norms, which means it’s not actually as transgressive as it’s clearly trying to be.

But again, none of that would really matter if I hadn’t gone into the book expecting more than I was given. All in all, I’ll likely finish the series. I did like the book. It just wasn’t the book I’d hoped it would be.

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Book Review: Behind the Throne, by K.B. Wagers

Book Review: Behind the Throne, by K.B. Wagers

BEHIND THE THRONE by K.B. Wagers – Review

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Book Review: Annihilation Aria, by Michael R. Underwood

I borrowed a copy of Annihilation Aria (by Michael R. Underwood) from the local library.

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An exuberant space opera that dares us to lose ourselves in battle songs and nonstop action!

A woman who can wield a weapon like a song and her voice like a weapon. A man who can out-think any problem. A pilot who can outmaneuver the best of them. Lahra, Max, and Wheel live and work aboard the Kettle, salvaging artifacts from dangerous galactic ruins to keep scraping by.

But those artifacts can unlock an ancient power which threatens the iron-fisted rule of the galaxy’s imperialist overlords, the Vsenk. To protect their dominion, the Vsenk have humbled entire civilizations. They eat ships like the Kettle and her found family for breakfast.

Lahra, Max, and Wheel are each just trying to get home to the lives they lost, but they’ll have to evade space fascists, kick-start a rebellion, and save the galaxy first to do it.

Board the Kettle for a space opera like none you’ve ever read before; an adventure of galactic subterfuge, ancient alien lore, a secret resistance force, lost civilizations, and giant space turtles.

This is a little rambly, but I have scattered thoughts.

I enjoyed this a lot. I did think the pacing a little inconsistent—it dragged in the middle—and it felt a little like a second book sometimes, because of how much history was referenced between the characters. But overall, I loved spending time with the characters, enjoyed that the two main characters were married and seriously in love (no need to be a romance if the relationship is already established), appreciated the diversity in the alien species, thought there was a ton of witty humor, and several moral quandaries that invited deeper thought.

I also got a personal little amusement after I spent the whole book thinking, “Wow, this has a real Stargate feel to it” (along with anything and everything like Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider,—we had a lara/Lahra after all—Farscape, Star Wars, Firefly, etc, but mostly Stargate)—with the archeologist stepping through a gate and getting lost in space—and then realizing Max was referred to as ‘son of Danielle.’ Close enough to Daniel for me to call it a tribute, right? I’m running with it. It made me happy.

Lastly, as an aside, I recently read several books that I found recommended in a Fantasy Readers’ Forum in which the OP asked for books in which martial women protect nerdier guys. (Totally my jam too, BTW.) Well, this may be Sci-Fi, but it fits the OP’s request better than just about any of the books I saw recommended. (Except maybe His Secret Illuminations). So, if that’s your thing too, pick this book up.

All in all, I don’t know if a second book is planned, but I’d be happy to read it (or more of Underwood’s work) if one is.

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Garik16: Review Annihilation Aria

Review: Annihilation Aria by Michael R. Underwood

Review of Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1), by Ann Leckie

I’m on vacation! Ok, I’m visiting my mom. But since she lives in Florida, it’s like a vacation. Granted, given the Covid-19 numbers here in Florida, we have no intention of leaving this house at any point during the visit. This is no true hardship though. I mean, look where I’m sitting, wrapped in a towel in my swimsuit, to write this review. I could do worse, right?

On the fourteen-hour drive down I read Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. It is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I’ve heard only good things about, I five-starred the only other book I’ve read by her, and she lives locally to me. (I do try and support local authors.) I even met her briefly in a tea shop once. She was gracious and lovely. So, I finally borrowed a copy from the library.

Description from Goodreads:

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren – a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.


I really enjoyed this! It’s smart science fiction, the sort that will have me coming back and contemplating aspects of it for weeks to come. So many questions of identity, individuality, morality, friendship, class, humanity, and loyalty (and probably more).

I love the contemplation of what qualifies as “I” given the reality of ancillaries. I love the quandaries around gender. Pronouns do a lot of work in this book. The book subverts them and makes you really think about them. There were times I felt it got so convoluted that I’m not even sure the author kept it straight. But that was unquestionably part of the point.

It is a slow read and covers literally thousands of years. (It reminded me a little of Asimov in this respect, with Breq filling in for Daneel.) But I honestly can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the series.