Separated, unaware of the others, three teens try to wrest control of the galaxy from an evil celebrity in this sequel to Empress of a Thousand Skies (2017).
Nero, a “holovision star with a pretty face” who’s seized rule of the galaxy, seeks the overwriter—technology that mines memories, erases history, and controls populations by mind control. Does it really exist? Working against him are: Rhee, reluctantly acting as empress because her older sister, rightful inheritor of the Ta’an dynasty, is missing; Kara, who is Rhee’s sister, alive but undercover, hoping to save humanity yet erase herself with the overwriter; and Aly, a boy who loves Kara, thinks she’s dead, and joins a plot to assassinate Nero—as revenge for Kara and for obliterating Aly’s home planet. Rhee and Kara have tan skin; Aly is black. As Nero orchestrates explosions and airs deceptive holovision broadcasts, the teens’ fierce little “orbit of soldiers and refugees and loyalists” comes together and apart on various planets. Violence is everywhere, and the protagonists labor under misunderstandings, trauma, and loneliness. Belleza’s plot is terrific, though the writing is not as smooth as in its predecessor. Reveals are profound in substance, though the moments of revelation pack less punch than they could. Given its relative choppiness and rushed feeling, this sequel should be read immediately after Empress, to import its heart.
Not a stand-alone but an essential conclusion with indelible moments. (map, character list, planet list) (Science fiction. 14-18)