A feminist Guardians of the Galaxy—a smart, swashbuckling, wildly imaginative adventure of a rag-tag team of brilliant misfits, dangerous renegades, and enhanced outlaws in a war-torn future.
A wildly successful innovator to rival Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, Vivian Liao is prone to radical thinking, quick decision-making, and reckless action. On the eve of her greatest achievement, she’s trying to outrun those who are trying to steal her success.
In the chilly darkness of a Boston server farm, Viv sets her ultimate plan into motion. A terrifying instant later, Vivian Liao is catapulted through space and time to a far future where she confronts a destiny stranger and more deadly than she could ever imagine.
The end of time is ruled by an ancient, powerful Empress who blesses or blasts entire planets with a single thought. Rebellion is literally impossible to consider–until Vivian arrives. Trapped between the Pride, a ravening horde of sentient machines, and a fanatical sect of warrior monks who call themselves the Mirrorfaith, Viv must rally a strange group of allies to confront the Empress and find a way back to the world and life she left behind
Full Disclosure: I made it through 8 chapters, to 19% of the book. And there I gave up. Let me tell you why.
But first, I’ll explain why I picked up this book.
- Look at that cover. Wow. Gorgeous. Reminds me of Hela, and I have always loved Hela. Give me a good anti-hero or villain and I’m happier than hell.
- “Feminist Guardians of the Galaxy.” I mean YES PLEASE AND GIVE IT TO ME NOOOOOWWWWW.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t let covers get my hopes up too high. I’ve long since learned not to let the hype, comparing it to something else that’s fun and fantastic, drive my interest higher. I was somewhat concerned about how the lesbian aspect of the character would be handled, but not enough to put me off reading. I was hoping for a reasonably fun, fast paced, well written story about space and time and all the weirdness that could possibly come with it.
Well, I got the weirdness. That’s for sure. On top of that, I got a ton of purple prose that, honestly, got annoying. I got pages and pages and pages of words, but they weren’t describing anything actually happening. They weren’t giving me backstory – despite them trying so hard to appear like they contained information.
So, honest truth here: the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs in the blurb? That accurately describes what happens in the first 2 chapters (5% of the book) That’s approximately 31 pages of … overwrought descriptions of Viv existing? Seriously, those 2 small paragraphs and it is honestly all you need. Because all the extra words in those 31 pages? They don’t tell you ANYTHING about Viv, about why she’s really running, about what she intends to do, about her history…nothing. It’s just words.
I’ve often said words mean things. Sometimes they mean what you expect them to mean, sometimes there are varied and layered meanings you know nothing about. But they still mean them. So what were all these words saying?
It felt, to me, like they were saying how overly pleased the author was with their ability to string together the longest, most over-wrought, sentences in existence.
Oligarchs and video stars and billionaires and their daughters, princesses and actresses hoping for her notice, fresh-faced tech circuit darlings hungry to stand where Viv now stood but with only the vaguest sense of what that meant, people she’d sent invitations and people she’d let bribe or beg their way onto the guest list, they came. The Saint Kitts airport had hummed with Cessnas and Gulfstreams and Tesla Aeros for days before the party, and the long black glistening cars that wound up the driveway of the beach-front mansion might have been a funeral procession save for the passengers’ brightly colored plumage. A funeral, maybe, for a tyrant.Empress of Forever, Chapter 1, 2nd paragraph
Come on. That’s TWO sentences. Can we say run-on? This isn’t to say that extremely long sentences don’t have their place. They do. Just like incredibly short sentences do. They help to set cadence and give variety so the mind doesn’t get bored. But this is common throughout the entire 19% (almost 90 pages) of the book that I read.
A current swirled the stellar surface beneath them, at first a barely sensible discoloration, but, as the note grew (so loud now that Viv staggered with the pain of it, grabbed the stanchion white-knuckled and refused to collapse), it became a plasma whirlpool, boring down into the depths of the star to reveal a web of strands that could not be diamond because diamonds would have melted here. The strands glowed with heat, and in their center hung a box that was not a box, which changed dimensions as Viv watched, unwilling to sit in three.Empress of Forever, Chapter 6
“Unwilling to sit in three.” Really? Also – 4 commas in that first sentence and a parenthetical, with a comma within the parenthetical. Now, I’m a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma. So much so that I edit everything I do in my day job to ensure it’s in there. But this is excessive.
The author seems to be going for beautiful prose, but he’s overshot it by a couple light years and straight into purple.
She came back to herself, panting on the floor, drooling rainbow blood on crystal.Empress of Forever, Chapter 7
And here’s the real problem. Because maybe this character (not Viv) actually does have rainbow blood. I mean, there’s some bizarre stuff happening, so this could be possible. The problem arises when the writing is so over-wrought that I can’t tell what’s hyperbole and what’s actual description anymore. Because there’s no basis for me to understand reality in this future world.
I’ll be completely honest, I started to thing I was just not smart enough to read this book. I ended up Googling so many things while reading. So when Viv mentions “hate fractal,” I went to look and see if there was a fractal that I was unaware of, specifically named. There’s not. This was what I came up against with everything I looked up. It wasn’t something that I just didn’t understand, it was world-building that was poorly done.
Though I’d welcome anyone to tell me I’m wrong, with information on what exactly a “hate fractal” is.
Things finally seemed to be actually moving along by the time I hit Chapter 9, and perhaps I should have just kept on pushing through. But the prose never let up. I was rolling my eyes at least every other paragraph or trying to figure out what actually was happening; what was real and true and what was just prose. I could not continue.
But. I had a theory. I had it ever since Chapter 3. So I went to the last 2 Chapters of the book to see if I was right.
I was. I guess this was supposed to be some sort of twist and big reveal. It’s ridiculously easy to guess. If you’re going to throw a twist in, make me never see it coming.
Though, to be fair to the author, I can only think of 1 book and 1 series that ever managed to completely blow my mind with the reveal. Because they’d seeded the information so beautifully throughout and then convinced me to look elsewhere. Don’t pay attention to that, pay attention to this.
In Empress of Forever every single moment serves to say what the twist is. I saw the reveal coming from 400+ pages away.
Maybe this gets better, maybe it picks up and becomes the rag-tag group of misfits fighting against impossible odds. Maybe it’s feminist AF.
No maybe about it: I don’t care. Your mileage may vary.