“The Empress Game” by Rhonda Mason is a great read. It’s been a long time since I picked up a book and had to read through in only a few sittings because I didn’t want to put it down. This is a book that will make you long for rainy days and free time to read!
When the novel begins Kayla Reunimon is a pit fighter. She does her work under the name Shadow Panthe. She’s painted up and fit and is unbeatable. It’s not difficult to pick up that she comes from somewhere other than the slums in which she’s made her home for five years.
Kayla has a history and baggage. For one thing, she has a little brother who has special psychic powers. He’s able to project his thoughts to her; can seek her out no matter where she is. She makes reference to no longer having powers herself and then things get even more interesting.
Senior Agent Malkor Rua of the Imperial Diplomatic Corps wants Kayla to work for him. It’s a bizarre task. Malkor wants Kayla to pose as a Princess and fight for a spot on the council at the infamous Empress Games. It’s not the most inviting job she’s ever been offered but when she finds out that “others” are looking for her and her little brother Kayla takes the job quickly. She insists upon transportation anywhere she wants to go after her role in the Empress Games: she can finally take her brother home to get the Psi training that he needs.
As the team prepares to fight Kayla discovers just how complicated the universe is. What she wants is at odds with what Princess Isonde wants and the politics are far more complex than Kayla ever could have expected. Shortly after arriving at the location chosen for the Empress Games Kayla discovers there is a delegation from her own world; they may well recognize her and her sibling. She’s brought the brother she’s trying to protect closer to danger than ever.
And things get even more complex before they begin to unravel. There is the potential for a viral plague of nanites to be released, there is an occupation in enemy territory and all levels of organizations seem to have been infiltrated. It’s difficult for Kayla to know who to trust.
This is a great summer read if you want to get lost in a new world. The story is character driven and fast-paced. Kayla is the kind of female character that should be celebrated in novels. She’s strong, devoted, independent and intriguing. It’s almost impossible not to cheer for her. This novel has intrigue, politics, great world-building and multi-dimensional interpersonal relationships. Read it and have enjoy.
This is book one of a trilogy and I can’t wait to read book two!