I have been a fan of Kate Elliott’s writing for a long time – see my reviews of the Crown of Stars series and Cold Magic. So when I heard that she was writing a space opera, reverse-gender version of Alexander the Great’s life – I was extremely excited.
BLURB: GENDER-SWAPPED ALEXANDER THE GREAT ON AN INTERSTELLAR SCALE
Princess Sun has finally come of age. Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared. But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead. To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.
REVIEW: I don’t know all that much about Alexander the Great’s life, especially his upbringing. But if he had even half of the issues to deal with when growing up that poor Sun is confronted with, then it’s hardly surprising that he grew up to conquer a goodly chunk of the known world. After all, it would be the only way to keep himself and those he cared about safe.
This full-scale adventure set in space has a fairly complicated setup, and I needed to pay attention, as Elliott doesn’t do large info-dumps (yippee!). It is also in multiple point of view, though the first-person viewpoint is in Persephone Lee, who is trying to escape from a toxic upbringing, where love and approval are in short supply.
Sun, the fiery and charismatic heir of a charismatic and fiery ruler, isn’t in any danger of getting too much parental praise, either. Her mother, the legendary queen-marshal, who managed to stabilise Chaonia and turn it into a state to be reckoned with, tends to spectacularly butt heads with her daughter. And there are plenty around her who are only too willing to see Sun disinherited and disgraced for their own political ends. Initially, I had thought this was going to be one of those tense, court intrigues where a single misstep or unguarded remark can have dire consequences. I wasn’t unhappy with the prospect as I rather enjoy that dynamic – but when it all kicked off, the full-tilt forward momentum was breathless, sharpened when several of Sun’s beloved and trusted companions die.
I loved this one. It’s over 500 pages long, but it certainly didn’t feel like it and I reached the climactic and satisfying ending with a sense of loss. I wanted more, which is always a good sign. Elliott hits all the main tropes of space opera with panache, including a cracking space battle that had me holding my breath as I turned the pages – and I’m now really, really looking forward to the next book in the series.
Very highly recommended for fans of fast-moving space opera with dynamic characters and plenty of plot twists. While I obtained an arc of Unconquerable Sun from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.