Hail Bristol was once a gun smuggler, but now she’s Indranan Empress Hailimi, and her concerns are no longer just about her own survival. Although that hasn’t exactly dropped off her radar, either. Despite executions and imprisonments, she’s still empress, and that means people are still after her crown.
After finishing Behind the Throne way back when, I’d been itching for the next book about Hail’s rule. Behind the Throne was a fun and swashbuckling adventure, and I wanted to see if her next adventure would fulfill the same promises.
I was deeply satisfied by After the Crown. Like its predecessor, After the Crown fulfils the same real-life-applicable political intrigue that usually feels like it’s missing from sweeping epics. Hail’s empire is filled with the sorts of sociopolitical issues faced by contemporary Americans, in some regards. The empire is filled with technological advancements, yet basic equalities are lying by the wayside.
After the Crown takes Hail off the empire’s capital planet and into a variety of other locations, from a neutral planet where she meets the Saxon king to a planetary system that belongs to smugglers, pirates, and other not-quite-savory types. While the series maintains the action that makes the series so much fun, there’s an abrupt shift in tone almost exactly in the middle of the book, and it’s slightly disorienting despite still being enjoyable.
Wagers doesn’t shy away from commentary on difficult topics in the second book. Early on, an organization called the Upjas seeks gender equality for men; U.S. readers might find the rights they seek uncomfortably familiar. At the same time, Hail is derided by the king of nearby Saxony because, according to Saxon culture, women aren’t fit for rule. In this book, Hail continues dealing with keeping her infertility a secret, although that concern soon gives way as she fights for the lives of herself and her officials.
While I wouldn’t say After the Crown suffers from second-book syndrome, it does feel a bit different from its predecessor, although the key qualities that made Behind the Throne great — the action, the politics, and the delightful narrator — are still there.
After the Crown is a worthy successor to Behind the Throne, which was one of my favorite SF/F releases last summer. I would recommend this title to space opera lovers seeking a lady-led adventure with less romance and more politics.
4 out of 5 stars
Feliza Casano founded Girls in Capes and currently edits and writes for all sections of the site. In her approximate 2.3 hours of free time each month, she loves watching anime, reading science fiction, and working on her novels-in-progress. Keep up with her antics at felizacasano.com and follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.
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