unknownBehind The Throne
K.B. Wagers
432 Pages
Orbit Books
Review by Benjamin Thomas

K.B. Wagers’s debut science fiction novel Behind the Throne, the first in the Indranan War series, follows Hail Bristol, a runaway princess who has followed a much more dangerous career path: a notorious gunrunner. Tracked down twenty years after her crown-ditching escapade, Hail is brought back to the center of the Indranan Empire where her volatile relationship with her mother is mirrored by Indranan’s relationship with its neighbors. With her siblings murdered and her mother ill, the rule of the Indranan Empire has been left in the hands of Hail’s egotistical, conniving cousin.

Feeling alone and in the dead-center of a place where she does not belong, Hail relies on her bodyguards Emmory and Zin, the same pair of Trackers that located her in deep space. With constant threats on her life, Hail must diplomatically shed her gunrunner behavior in favor for characteristics more suited for the heir to an empire. But she learns that changing who you really are is next to impossible.

What Behind the Throne does (aside from give us over four-hundred pages of fast-paced, badassness) is take situations that a good deal of people can relate to and set it against the epic back drop of a future matriarchal empire on the brink of war. This is what science fiction is supposed to do. It allows us to examine our own lives and the choices we make while being entertained by people from far off worlds.

While Behind the Throne does this, I was a little confused as to who exactly us was in this case. The novel is a face-paced action romp with extremely well-written fight scenes, heavy language at times, and suggestions towards mature themes. However Hail is well into adulthood when she returns to the Indranan Empire and, unfortunately, doesn’t always behave as such. I get what Wagers was attempting to do by making Hail have a difficult time adapting to life back home, but there was a very strong coming of age feel to every scene that involved Hail and her Empress mother. While I expected this to a degree, it was done so heavily that for a good chunk of the narrative I felt like I was reading a book geared towards a YA audience.

Muddled target audience aside, Behind the Throne was a very enjoyable read. It didn’t bring anything shockingly new to the space epic sub-genre of science fiction, but it didn’t need to. K.B. Wagers’s pacing throughout the novel is by far one of my favorite things about it. It flows together flawlessly. The next novel in the series is due out mid-December and it’s already on my Christmas list.

Originally published in Shoreline of Infinity Issue 5.