Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Vows of Empire by Emily Skrutskie
Series: The Bloodright Trilogy #3
Published by Del Rey Books on June 14, 2022
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Amazon, Audible, Audiobook, Barnes & Noble, Apple
Gal and Ettian have never been farther apart. Once, they were roommates and best friends, each suffocating under a secret of galactic consequence. When Gal’s came to light—that he was heir to the Umber Empire and all of its brutal conquest—the two were forced to flee their military academy, fall in with a brewing rebellion to reclaim the Archon Empire from Umber’s grasp, and face their long-held feelings for each other.
Then the rebellion discovered Gal’s identity and to save his life, Ettian had no choice but to unveil his own secret: that he was the long-lost heir to the Archon throne. With Gal as a political prisoner, Ettian began the fight to restore his own empire—and to open Gal’s eyes to the possibility of a galaxy reclaimed from Umber’s greed. But just when Gal was starting to come around, a team of Umber operatives rescued him from Archon’s clutches and dragged him home to take up his crown.
Now, separated for the first time and in full command of the might of their respective forces, the star-crossed rulers find themselves truly at odds. And with the war reaching a tipping point, the time has finally come for Gal and Ettian to confront what they owe their empires, their friends, and each other if they’re ever to forge a universe where the two of them can be together.
The build up to the final confrontation from the beginning lead to this moment. An enemies to lovers romance with a twist set in the backdrop of far future space and two clashing empires. The first book in the Bloodright trilogy grabbed my attention and now I am excited to see it come to an exciting end.
Vows of Empire is part of an ongoing story so it’s not a good place to begin.
The tale started when two young guys became friends at the Umber space academy. One was a promising, young Umber and the other a scholarship student from the conquered Archon empire. Then a late night attempt to kill Gal made him go on the run with Ettian and share the secret that he was the Umber heir and he had to stop this attempt at a coup.
The two young men go on the lamb to keep from getting captured and their adventure leads them to a savvy street gang member, Wen, who ties in with them and then the Archon resistance who can’t know Gal’s identity. They don’t speak of feelings, but Gal has never treasured before what he has with Ettien. His mother tried to make him tough, cold and ambitious, but all he wants to do is stop the brutal conquering machine of Umber might.
If Gal thought his confession was a shocker, Ettien’s is mind-blowing to him. And the twists keep coming in this building story of twists, betrayals, and machinations.
I have been very taken with this series from the beginning. It has a good blend of worldbuilding, fast-paced action, intrigue, but, most of all, complicated relationships. The world of the story expands in focus as the story progresses to a grand scale, but then pulls back to small at the very end. Gal and Ettien started it and then Wen emerged as a main character and lastly, Hanzi, emerged. Everyone seems to have their own secrets and secret agenda. Vows of Empire began with Gal and Ettien far from each other and no solution in sight as to how any of it, from the two warring empires to the two enemy lovers, would resolve. I started to get an inkling early on what was really going on so I wasn’t very shocked by the surprise moments. Still, I could appreciate seeing how it all played out. I’m a little hazy on where things finally went on a grand scale because there wasn’t a final resolution there, but the main story, started in the beginning, got resolution.
This was very much YA in some ways, particularly how the characters thought and behaved. I was grateful to be spared as much of Gal’s thinking since this one had four narrators including the two young women, Wen and Hanzi. In truth, Wen and Hanzi tended to overshadow Gal and, especially, Ettien. They were forces of nature and took initiative and faced the bulk of the danger and fights. The romance was undergirding the story, but was understated and not heated like in most YAs.
This one wound out like a chess match because the plotters had a long game going and much of the book was spent getting their pieces properly placed. But, it didn’t lag and kept up the tension throughout. Those who enjoy exciting Young Adult LGBT Sci-fi or Space Opera should definitely give it a go.
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