War of the Usurper by Eli Freysson

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I received a review request from the author! This is an indie space opera book with an interesting take on how to tell the story.


Plot:

This book starts out with a bang, literally. The opening scene unfolded with the King and Queen dying in an explosion of suspicious circumstances.

Shortly after the explosion, it’s confirmed that the King and Queen were murdered and that their deaths weren’t a freak accident. At first, the survivors suspect some rebels or dissenters of carrying out the act, but, things start to fall into place for Beren as he thinks about the situation. Just days before, the Kings brother had arrived to do “training exercises” and brought a disproportionate number of his fleet to the exercises. He then launched a very, very quick response with a few too many people heading towards the palace directly following the explosion.

Beren thinks fast and determines that it would be best to get the Princess to safety, just in case this is a coup and not a terrorist attack.

He was right to suspect the Uncle, as he soon declares himself the regent and starts to be harsh with those who question it.

The Princess is whisked off to her aunts on a distant part of the galaxy, out of reach of her uncle, or so they thought.

A pair of Vozd priests are sent to assassinate the princess in her hide out, the Vozd priest’s havent been seen for years. They worship the Old Gods and have powers that no one else does – powers that allow them to suck the life out of you and disrupt technology.

As the years progress, the Usurper gets harsher and harsher dealing with people still loyal to the princess, and stars executing people and dropping bombs on planets that support the royal line over himself.

There is a lot going on with the plot and each character plays a small part in how everything goes down, and each chapter you get introduced to a different person and see what role they play in the War of the Usurper.

Final Score: 12.5/15


Characters:

There are a lot of characters, so I can’t go into all of them in depth without making this really long. As I said, each chapter is a different person, so you get 11 different perspectives on the war from all walks of life. Each chapter is about 25 – 30 pages long, but I was impressed that the author managed to give them all their own voice. I didn’t particularly get attached to any of the characters, this was more of a plot-driven novel, but I found this approach rather unique way to tell a story. If I were forced to pick who the “main character” was, I would say it was the princess, since it was about her journey getting her kingdom back even if she was the very last POV to be presented, many of the character arcs were intertwined with her story.

Marshal Beren is the first person you meet in this story, he’s in charge of the entire Royal army and has a lot riding on his shoulders. He feels the pressure but manages to put up a strong and steady front for his soldiers to look up to. He’s quick thinking and resourceful and is the only reason why the princess survived to try and take back her throne. He is also a widower, losing his husband  five years previously and is still taking it rather hard. If you’re looking for a gay POV, it’s not a big part of the story, but it’s there. He’s also an older POV, having been in service already for 32 years.

Princess Maraka starts out as a twelve-year-old, and ages up through the many years of war. She’s strong from the start though, she doesn’t want people to “take it easy on her”, she knows that to get stronger you can’t be pampered. She demands people tell her the truth about the situation and train her as hard as they can. She sort of reminds me of Lyanna Mormont in the way she handles people of nobility and other leaders of different factions of spacers.

Geon is Maraka’s battle trainer, getting her ready for the upcoming war. He’s doing his best to try and fill the void her father left, and teach her as best as he can. He’s extremely loyal and ready to lay down his life if needed.

Tallin is a Loyalist scout for the Royal Military, he helps Maraka make it to the Dark Sisters who are helping the princess fight the Vozd priests. He’s curious at heart, but also very brave and pulls through for people when they need him to.

Strike is a Dark Sister, a secluded group of women who live on a remote moon, mostly minding their own business. She’s focused on perfection, she’s very meditative and has a strong presence, she becomes a great ally for the princess to have, since her order has powers that can counterbalance the Vozd priests.

Sera is a theif of sorts, benefiting from the chaos the war is bringing about and sneaking into peoples manors and stealing their stuff. She has a group of “colleagues” that meet together at a bar on an old abandoned space station that’s been turned into a makeshift market.

There are a few more, but this section is getting really long.

Final Score: 10.5/15 


World Building:

The politics in this read a lot like a traditional medieval family house war kind of book. There are deep roots to the current ruling family, they’ve been around for almost 800 years in an unbroken line. They all have rather dark skin, with white hair, and almost crystal blue eyes. For a long time they’ve kept the peace even with certain dissenting groups causing a ruckus now and then.

Ships are able to ‘leap’ through space, making travel between the stars a quick endeavour.

Shatterspace was one of my favorites, it’s a region in space that’s more or less a planetary graveyard. Years before someone tried to develop the “ultimate weapon”, and overachieved. When deployed it took out multiple star systems, and research on that type of weapon has been outlawed on a galactic level. It seems to be one of the few things everyone can agree on.

Way back there was something called The Long Darkness, and it was brought about by the Vozd priests, there are ancient artefacts buried on the old Vozd worlds that the Usurper is beginning to unearth. The Usurper is trying to bring back the Vozd religion by slowly giving the sect more and more credibility in the public eye. They practice sacrifices and other evil shit which caused them to be cast out from public acceptance a long time ago.

There are cyber zombies created by the Usurper to help bolster his troops, and according to one report, nearly half his ‘army’ was comprised of animated corpses.

Final Score: 11.5/15 


Writing:

This had a very straightforward writing style that sped the story along nicely. This doesn’t have an overabundance of descriptions or flowery writing, so if you want something that speeds along steadily, this is that. I noticed a few overused words but other than that I have no complaints.

Final Score: 11/15 


Pacing

This was a very fast paced book, from the very beginning a lot of stuff is going on, and every chapter presents a new challenge that needs to be conquered before the next step in the plan against the Usurper can move forward. From beginning to end this book sped along smoothly. The one thing that may trip people up is the new character every chapter, however, I didn’t seem to have much of a problem with it since it was clear what each character needed to do and who they were and how they fit into the story.

Final Score: 12/15 


Originality:

I don’t read nearly as much sci fi as I do fantasy, despite liking the genre. I’m not sure why that is, but it makes this section difficult. I can say that for me this was a very different experience, and the way the chapters are set up with new characters all circling around one clear goal was interesting.

Final Score: 12/15 


Personal Enjoyment:

I liked this, especially the “main character”, Maraka. I like younger protagonists that are mature and ready to start participating productively to the main plot, rather than being in the way of it. I also tend to like faster paced shorter books as of late, the epic sprawling novels are now daunting to me since I have so many books to get through.

Final Score: 7.5/10 


Audience:

  • For people who like military fantasy
  • For people who like multi pov
  • For people who like fast paced novels
  • For people who like a lot of space battles
  • For people who like House War Politics
  • For people who like “shorter” space opera

Final Score: 77/100

 

5 comments

  1. Thank you very much for doing this, Esmeralda. I’m glad to see you liked The War of the Usurper. I would be happy to send you an e-copy of the sequel, if you want it.

    1. sure! Sorry for the delayed response, the SPFBO giveaway has been eating up a lot of my time

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