The Empress Game
Titan Books, Jul 14 2015, $14.95
The members of the Sakien Empire Ruling Council issue the galactic-wide edict to begin the tournament to fill the empty queen’s seat. Power-brokers seek viable candidates that can win yet be manipulated. One group recruits Kayla “Shadow Panthe” Reinumon who earns a living fighting in gory matches on a remote orb. They appear unaware that Kayla was a princess on wyrd Ordoch until a coup killed her entire royal family except her and her brother Corinth. These wannabes also are ignorant that their chosen puppet, like many from her former home, possesses high levels of psi skills; she does not realize that her “owners” orchestrated the assassinations of her family.
Kayla and her supporters share the same output objective, but differ on the outcome as she plans to win but use it to go home. They also deploy cheating methods to insure their victory, but failed to account for their fighter’s independence that has them scrambling while she never anticipated any of her employers betraying her.
The opening act of the Empress Game trilogy contains an intriguing heroine who escorts readers through corrupt and literally back-stabbing political and economic systems on various worlds. Although the prime villain seems weak once we meet him especially after a build-up and having a romance feels more a subgenre requirement, space opera fans will relish spending time in Rhonda Mason’s fascinating but “wyrd” galactic vision.