Blog Tour Book Review: UNCONQUERABLE SUN by Kate Elliot

I received a review copy of the book from the publisher as part of the tour in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinion.

Genre: Sci-Fi retelling
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book

Synopsis:

Book cover for UNCONQUERABLE SUN: title in red on a burning sun above a ship-filled city scape

It has been eight centuries since the beacon system failed, sundering the heavens. Rising from the ashes of the collapse, cultures have fought, system-by-system, for control of the few remaining beacons. The Republic of Chaonia is one such polity. Surrounded by the Yele League and the vast Phene Empire, they have had to fight for their existence. After decades of conflict, Queen-Marshal Eirene has brought the Yele to heel.

Now it is time to deal with the Empire. Princess Sun, daughter and heir, has come of age.

In her first command, she drove a Phene garrison from the beacons of Na Iri – an impressive feat. But growing up in the shadow of her mother – a ruler both revered and feared – has been no easy task. While Sun may imagine that her victorious command will bring further opportunity to prove herself, it will in fact place her on the wrong side of court politics. There are those who would like to see Sun removed as heir, or better yet, dead. To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

Apparently this is a gender-swapped Alexander the Great retelling, which is what made me want to read it in the first place. While reading, though, it became patently clear that I know hardly anything about Alexander the Great – particularly as this book seems to be retelling his early life. I can’t comment, therefore, on it as a retelling.

However, as a sci-fi space opera standing alone, it holds its own. It’s fast paced with lots of action, including a really nice train-escape sequence that I couldn’t put down. Alongside the action, there are lots of mysteries over traitors and attacks, as well as messy family relationships like Sun and her mother. I loved not knowing what her father was up to, or how well Sun could trust the noble houses.

By sheer coincidence, I started this after a long conversation with friends about world building and introducing lots of characters. Thus I was very aware of how many characters there were in this book and how the world building was a mix of being largely left to inference but with a lot of it given at the start.

Yes, it does mean you have to work a little harder at the start and take a lot of the world on trust that it will be explained, but there’s nothing wrong with that style. Reading slower and more carefully, gives a richer reading experience as there’s more attention paid to the story and character interactions.

I’d have liked a star map of the galaxy, to understand the lay between the empires as I was a little confused by the initial discussion of the battle fronts and important star systems. The further I went into the book, the better I could understand it so that, by the time I was at the finale, I understood the stakes.

There are four POV characters – Sun, Perse, Zizou, and some one on the other side of the war. This final POV felt very unnecessary. They had only a handful of chapters and didn’t intersect with the others at all. I’m not sure what point they served at all, and it took a long time for the “mystery” about their identity to be revealed, such that I didn’t care about them.

The other three POV work well together, however, they’re all different person/tense combinations. Sun, the main POV, is told in past tense and third person. Perse, first person, present tense, and Zizou, third person, present tense. While this did help me instantly know whose POV it was, it was very jarring not to have a constant narrative style. I prefer books that keep in one constant style.

According to Goodreads, this is the first in a trilogy, and I’m interested to see the story grow to the part of Alexander the Great that I know – the expansion of empire!

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