Beyond the Empire by K B Wagers

November 16, 2017

Please note, Beyond the Empire is the third book in The Indranan War trilogy. If you haven’t read books one and two then read no further. This review will likely contain minor spoiler. I’d suggested picking both books, reading them and and then coming back when you’re ready. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Gunrunner-turned-Empress Hail Bristol was dragged back to her home planet to take her rightful place in the palace. Her sisters and parents have been murdered, and the Indranan Empire is reeling from both treasonous plots and foreign invasion.

Now, on the run from enemies on all fronts, Hail prepares to fight a full-scale war for her throne and her people, even as she struggles with the immense weight of the legacy thrust upon her. With the aid of a motley crew of allies old and new, she must return home to face off with the same powerful enemies who killed her family and aim to destroy everything and everyone she loves. Untangling a legacy of lies and restoring peace to Indrana will require an empress’s wrath and a gunrunner’s justice.

Sadly, all good things come to an end. I always get a little misty eyed when I get to the last book in a series I’ve really enjoyed. Beyond the Empire by K B Wagers is the final novel in The Indranan War trilogy and we’re going out on a high, it is an absolute blast.

Though Hail Bristol remains front and centre in this book, and by extension the entire series, it is still very much an ensemble piece. I’m particularly fond of Emmory, her Ekam (think chief bodyguard/chief of staff) and Zin (his partner). The characters I most enjoyed however are Hail’s less than reputable friends from her days as a gunrunner. They are a wonderfully uncouth bunch. Even though Hail is now an empress, they all still treat her exactly the same way they always have. Hao is snarky in the extreme, mostly because he can be. Johar also remains a firm favourite, she is brutally honest about everything. She is just there for the fighting anything else is secondary. I think I might be slightly in love.

The thought that has struck me from the first book and has only grown is that there is something wonderfully emotive about Wagers’ writing. You get the sense that Hail and her dysfunctional surrogate family of bodyguards and gunrunners genuinely care for one another.  It doesn’t matter if there are bullets flying overhead, if buildings are blowing up or gigantic space cruisers are engaged in heated combat, everyone is looking out for one another. Hail’s ferocious loyalty is contagious. She won’t let her subjects do anything that she is not prepared to do herself. All evidence suggests this makes being her bodyguard a near impossible task.

There are many quiet moments in this novel. Hail still doubts her ability to rule, and this eats away at her constantly. As a counterpoint to all this introspection, the action sequences in Beyond the Empire have a breakneck, frenetic pace.  Situations change in a split second and characters have to learn to adapt immediately or die. There have been skirmishes in the other novels, but now we’re into the realms of out and out war. This is where our empress excels; Hail functions better in the middle of a battlefield than undertaking her ceremonial duties. I like this juxtaposition in her character. In the heat of the moment Hail is confident, sure and determined, but when the action subsides her self-assurance wavers.

Let’s be honest, if you’re going to read the third book in a trilogy then the likelihood is that you’ve read and enjoyed books one and two. Your expectations are going to be different from reading a standalone novel. You’ve committed to a story arc that spans multiple books and you’re looking for a payoff. The good news is that Beyond the Empire delivers on every level. Characters continue to evolve; the action is ramped up to the nth degree and the final moments of the novel are perfectly executed. The eagle eyed amongst you are also likely to spot that the author has started sowing the seeds for further novels set in the same universe.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all three books in this trilogy. The Indranan War has been great fun from beginning to end. In future, I’ll continue to look forward to each new book from this author with great anticipation. If you haven’t already discovered K B Wagers writing, I strongly suggest you remedy this gross oversight immediately. This is kick ass space opera with a heart. I loved it.

I agonised over my musical recommendation for Beyond the Empire. I wanted something that was suitably space agey but also had some sort of emotional resonance. An off-hand comment by a friend on Twitter offered me the perfect match. The soundtrack to Mass Effect Andromeda by John Paesano has just the right balance. Epic space battles…check, characters you care about…check. I’d advise listening along while you read the book if you get the chance.

Beyond the Empire is published by Orbit and is available now. Highly recommended.

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