Behind the Throne

Orbit: Hachette. (Indranan War, Bk. 1). Aug. 2016. 432p. ISBN 9780316308601. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316308571. SF
OrangeReviewStarHail Bristol's career as a successful smuggler is abruptly halted when trackers from the Indranan Empire storm her ship and inform her that her empress mother is sick and her sisters have been murdered, leaving her the sole heir to the throne. But this is a life Hail fled, and even the need to obtain justice for her siblings will not make it easy for her to accept that she must rejoin the palace. Luckily, Hail picked up a few skills from her gun-running days that will serve her well as a princess in a hostile court. This debut ranks among the best political sf novels in years, largely because of the indomitable, prickly Hail. The secondary characters—from the trackers who are Hail's only allies at first, to a conniving cousin—are fascinating as well. The matriarchal structure of the Indranan Empire leads to some interesting gender dynamics, and the cultural influences being largely from India make for a welcome change.
VERDICT This fast-paced, twisty space opera borrows the political machinations from fantasies such as George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones and Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor. [See Eric Norton's "Genre Spotlight" feature, p. 24ff.—Ed.]
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