Book Tour Review: Blood of a Thousand Stars by Rhoda Belleza

Monday, January 29, 2018
Title: Blood of a Thousand Stars
Author: Rhoda Belleza
Genre: science fiction
Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies #2
Pages: 344
Published: expected February 20 2018
Source: ARC from publishers for review
Rating: 4/5

With a revolution brewing, Rhee is faced with a choice: make a deal with her enemy, Nero, or denounce him and risk losing her crown.

Framed assassin Alyosha has one goal in mind: kill Nero. But to get his revenge, Aly may have to travel back to the very place he thought he’d left forever—home.

Kara knows that a single piece of technology located on the uninhabitable planet Wraeta may be the key to remembering—and erasing—the princess she once was.

Villainous media star Nero is out for blood, and he’ll go to any means necessary to control the galaxy.

Vicious politics and high-stakes action culminate in an epic showdown that will determine the fate of the universe.

The second book in Rhoda Belleza's politics and revenge-driven YA science fiction series, Blood of a Thousand Stars offers more of what made the first so much fun: fast-paced action, interesting characters of diverse backgrounds, clever plots, and general mayhem in space.  This time around the stakes are higher and the plots are thicker, the villain more devious -- the author pulls no punches with her sophomore offering. Galactic war threatens everyone and everything, and the Ta'an sisters and their allies have to scramble to find their place in everything and try to stop a tyrant.

Empress of a Thousand Skies was undoubtedly Rhiannon's story, and Blood of a Thousand Stars belongs to Kara/Josselyn's struggle and evolution. While there are still three pivotal rotating POVs --  this time: Kara, Rhee, and Alyosha -- it is Kara that dominates the narrative. Hers is the POV that stood out the most because her choices are the most crucial to the plot of the novel. The other characters have become steadily more real and defined people over the course of both books, and they again play essential roles, but Kara remains the linchpin of the narrative. Rhiannon is a strong supporting main character; she still grows and learns about herself; Alyosha finds himself once again in unexpected but dire straits and complements Kara in more ways than one.

Belleza features a lot of action and assassination attempts and political maneuvering in her second novel. There are some high stakes and high adventures as each character fights -- for the throne, for their people, for themselves. At times the pacing of essential scenes can feel almost frenetic; with a lot happening and different narrators covering various events, it can be confusing to keep straight. There can be clarity issues when it comes to the fight scenes, especially, but it's an improvement from the same situation in book one. There also is a third-act plot reveal which feels like a bit of a retcon from key events that took place  in Empress of a Thousand Skies -- <spoiler>now Veyron is revealed as loyal and his ill-fated assassination attemped was timed perfectly so Dahlen would save Rhee? But then who would have saved Julian from Nero because Rhee was alive?....</spoiler>  -- but tied in neatly with how Julian was involved in this book's plot. I'm not sure it entirely works but I did appreciate how Julian complicated Rhiannon's narrative and made her reflect on her past choices and actions.

While there is still room and space in this galaxy to explore further stories, there is a definite feel of finality to at least this particular arc of Kara and Rhee's stories. There's bittersweet resolution that fits the harsh events that preceded it. Blood of a Thousand Stars was quickly-moving and and engaging; it may be on the lighter side of scifi but doesn't lack for imagination or for a death toll. The plotting could use a little more finesse, the universe feels a tad bit small (why are all these journeys over so fast? Space is huge!) but overall, a surprising and entertaining sequel and an improvement on its predecessor.

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