Review: AFTER THE CROWN by K. B. Wagers

Publisher: Orbit
Page Count: 416
Release Date: December 13th, 2016

AFTER THE CROWN is a thrilling return to the life of Hail Bristol, princess turned smuggler turned empress.  The series has everything you could want in a rough and tumble space opera.  Warring empires? Check.  Seedy criminal enterprises that operate in the gray area?  Check.  A capable female lead driving her BodyGuards to distraction because she’s always leaping into danger?  Check. K. B. Wagers has created a world that believably projects Earth cultures into the future, merging today’s customs with space technology into a world that seems more FIREFLY than STAR WARS. 9780316308632

Book one of The Indrana War series, BEFORE THE THRONE, takes palce world centuries in the future, when humanity has spread throughout the galaxy and competing empires rule the stars.  In the opening pages, Hail Bristol finds herself summoned home from a life of gunrunning and smuggling to the court of the Indrana Empire.  Hail, you see, was third in line to the throne after her sisters, who have recently been murdered.  With her mother slowly dying, Hail must take her place as heir and resume court life. After multiple assassination attempts and a failed coup, Hail finds herself Empress and on the brink of war with the rival Saxon Alliance.

AFTER THE CROWN picks up mere days after Hail became Empress.  She’s still trying to reconcile twenty years of smuggler instincts with the decorum of court life.  Determined to stop a war with the Saxons before it begins, she arranges a peace summit with King Trace.  Things go drastically wrong and soon Hail finds herself on the run from multiple parties who want her dead.

AFTER THE CROWN is an excellent return to the world of the Indrana Empire.  Hail quickly became a favorite character of mine in the first book, a no-nonsense woman who is more than capable of kicking ass and quippy banter.  This is partially due to the fact that my head-cannon has merged the character of Hail with Hannah John Kamen’s delightful space bounty hunter Dutch from the television show KILLJOYS (even if Kamen is a bit on the young side). Wager has continued writing a thrilling space opera.  You’ll find ship battles and blaster fights, seedy cantinas and elegant throne rooms.  AFTER THE CROWN moves beyond Hail’s home planet and introduces us to new locations in the galaxy, including haunts that Hail frequented when she was a smuggler.  I enjoyed seeing the setting expand and getting to know more about this world, and if the title of book 3 (BEYOND THE EMPIRE) is any indication, the scope of these books will continue to grow.

My one quibble with the series, especially as it looks outside the Indrana Empire, is that it can skimp on the details of other species and cultures Hail interacts with. I don’t demand that a book hold my hand through the world-building, but it needs to fill in some details at some point.  For instance, there is a race called the Farian that deal with humans on a limited basis.  I’ve come to gather that they are humanoid, but I could tell you very little about what they look like or anything at all about their culture.  We are also introduced to someone who is described as part-Svatir, and that this motivates some sort of pilgrimage on their part.  But whether Svatir is a human cultural tradition or another race entirely is a fact I couldn’t quite sort out.  Given how thoroughly Wager has sketched out the world and culture of Indrana, I would have appreciated a little more attention be given to these side species.

AFTER THE CROWN was a sequel I heartily enjoyed, and would easily recommend to anyone looking for a good space adventure.  I hope to tackle BEYOND THE EMPIRE soon, and look forward to the sequel trilogy, THE FARIAN WAR, which begins October 9th, 2018.

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