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The Empress Game

(The Empress Game Trilogy #1)

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,091 ratings  ·  175 reviews
One seat on the intergalactic Sakien Empire’s supreme ruling body, the Council of Seven, remains unfilled, that of the Empress Apparent. The seat isn’t won by votes or marriage. It’s won in a tournament of ritualized combat in the ancient tradition. Now that tournament, the Empress Game, has been called and the females of the empire will stop at nothing to secure political ...more
Paperback, 372 pages
Published July 14th 2015 by Titan Books (first published July 10th 2015)
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Ashley Nope, not in the slightest. It's a phenomenal series, but definitely an adult book. Tons of swearing (although some of the swear words are made up, so…moreNope, not in the slightest. It's a phenomenal series, but definitely an adult book. Tons of swearing (although some of the swear words are made up, some are still real ones), violence, and sex.(less)

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Nenia ✨️ I yeet my books back and forth ✨️ Campbell

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DNF @ 6%

This wasn't a bad book... it was just really boring. Do you ever have one of those reads where the premise sounds awesome but the writing just can't carry it off. Michelle Sagara is like that for me. In principle, her stories sound like the types of books I ought to love, but her writing is so dense and puts me to sleep. That's how I felt about this. Great premise, dull execution.

I buddy-read this with my friend TL and she says
Oct 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: space-opera, sci-fi
Okay, seriously, this took a long time for me to start caring about the characters, but it finally happened well after the half-way point of the book. That's a real shame, because I was frankly bored out of my skull by most of it.

Best Space Opera? Please.

We got ourselves a bit of knife fighting in a tournament and then a road trip with blackmailing spies and a con job to put an empress on the throne of a multi planet empire. If that isn't bad enough, we've got the old trope of princess-in-disgui
Oct 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
A preview of the next Disney animation where they get all their movie princesses together and make them fight with kris knives in gladiatorial combat. (My money is on Mu Lan).

Ok, it's not that. That would be cool. This is also cool, and does feature princesses fighting in gladiatorial combat, but we also get politics, psionic powers, spy agency intrigue and a romantic subplot.

Kayla is a princess from one of the Wyrd worlds. Populated by psychics and where the women are much stronger and larger p
Maria V. Snyder
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This debut novel was written by one of Seton Hill University's MFA graduates and I bought a copy during our annual Super Mega Book Signing in June. Rhonda and I were in the program together, but she was a few semesters ahead of me (and she hung out with the cool kids ;).

The book is science fiction with romantic elements (some might call that space opera). I really liked the main protagonist - Kayla is a kickass heroines but she's not obnoxious about it (I like strong independent characters, but
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Delicious page-turning badassery (is that a word?)

This book has action, deception, drama, evil mind-control experiments, a devastating nanite plague, and high ranking ladies kicking butt in gladiatorial style games to determine who will be the next Empress. What's not to like? Nothing! This book was awesome.
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
4.5. Extremely readable, densely-packed start to what will hopefully be a very exciting series. There's so much in here that it is hard to know where to start - pit fighting! nanobite virus! an empire at war with a race of psychic, crazily advanced technological people! factions within the diplomatic corps! And I haven't even mentioned the main event - the gladiatorial fights to select the next empress, wherein our intrepid heroine, Kayla, must impersonate a princess and win her the hand of the ...more
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is so much happening in this that it's difficult to decide what to say! We have a fighter and her kid brother desperately trying to stay alive, gladiator-style games to choose a bride/empress, major bad guys and regular ones. Betrayal, loyalty and romance. Sigh, that kiss...

Basically read it!
Buddyread with Nenia

Liked it but didn't love it.

It took about half the book for me to start getting more interested in the characters. Up until then, I was interested in a way and was willing to be patient and see what the author had up her sleeve.

Loved Kayla, and the concept of the story but I was overall "meh" with it. The book wasn't boring or poorly done, it just didn't "wow" me.

Would be a good introduction to Space Opera for someone new to it all.
Always a pleasant surprise when a book exceeds your expectations. I feared this one would be a cheap Hunger Games knock-off, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. It’s way more interesting and the world is far more fleshed out than that comparison would imply….

Kayla Reunimon is not someone you want to mess with. Her family is dead, killed in a coup orchestrated by treacherous agents of the Sekian Empire in an attempt to bend the advanced technological expertise of the Wyrds to thei
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One review/recommendation of this book said if you like Jack Campbell then you might like this. I scoffed at that since Jack Campbell is, in my opinion, of the finest hard SF authors. But I was intrigued, so I requested the book from the library. I downloaded it,put off starting it for a few days then finally started reading. I could not put it down until I finished the book.

This book is not hard SF. It is,however,a finely crafted book with a plausible world view and characters that have a good
Jen Brooks
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: space-opera
This space opera has it all: It’s gut-wrenching. It’s thoughtful. It has strong science fiction elements, and it’s full of seriously kick-ass fighting scenes.

Kayla Reinumon is an exiled Wyrd princess forced to hide her identity and fight in the Blood Pit to keep herself and her young brother alive. IDC agent Malkor Rua finds her there and, ignorant of her true identity, convinces her to play the starring role in the biggest con in the empire—the fixing of the Empress Game, a martial contest who
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
In the intergalatic empire at the center of THE EMPRESS GAME, the new empress is chosen through a tournament. As this is obviously a cracked way to determine a political ruler, cheating is rampant. Isonde, a political mover and shaker who is also the beloved of the emperor, enlists help to find a body double who can fight. Her man Malkor finds Shadow Panthe, whose true name is Kayla Reunimon. She is, of course, secretly the princess of a conquered world.

Despite being in the title, I found the ga
Oct 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very solid SciFi-Adventure. I enjoyed this story, I liked and felt with most of the characters - some very likable and some were more complex, like Isonda.
The pace was good and the world-building was done with some creativity, though it reminded me a bit of Star Wars (Episodes I to III) with the old-fashioned traditions and customs combined with fantastical high-tech.
I deducted a point for the bit lackluster romance part. I didn't feel the love. The feelings between Corinth, her little brother
Jul 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads.

Lately, I’ve had this really bad habit of receiving fantastic looking books, making plans to read them as soon as possible, and then ignoring said plans. And almost every single time, when I finally get round to the books, I wonder why it took me so long. The Empress Game was another fine example of this.

The focus of the story is the Empress Game itself, but it was so
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it

This book was amazing. It managed to got me on board the train from the very first page, and by the end of the ride, I was left in a daze. Wow. I will definitely be reading the next book of the series once it comes out.

Really enjoyed the setting of the romance in the book. It was not rushed. It proceeds slowly and actually get a chance to develop, unlike some book
Aug 08, 2016 rated it liked it
This was a pretty good story that was on its way to a solid 4 stars until the end. An unknown pit fighter is recruited to impersonate a princess in the Empress Game to crown the new ruler. I liked the background of our protagonist, Kayla and the tech that was used to allow her to pull off this con was interesting. This is a good popcorn type book with good action and some interesting political intrigue. But there was a flip flop with some decisions by Kayla at the end that I just couldn't get pa ...more
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Think The Hunger Games meets Double Star with a dash of Tristan and Isolde.

The wonder is not that I rated this book so low, but that I finished it. The setup is hokey, plot is derivative, and characters are cardboard. But I did read it all because Mason’s storytelling is wonderful. Her prose is compelling and just when you’re starting to wonder why you’re still reading this, she throws a curve.

Probably the only worse way to choose a ruler than heredity is combat. Oh, and all the contestants for
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: july-2015
Disclaimer: I attended Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate program with the author and consider her a friend. I purchased this book for full price, though I had the luck to snag it at a book signing a few days before the official release.

I read space opera, but I mostly read space opera by one particular author (Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire series), because I measure all else by that standard.

Now I read space opera by two authors.

Despite the use of “game” in the title an
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. It has been a while since I've read a proper story filled with enough twists and turns to keep me on my toes. Can't wait for the next one. ...more
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
2 stars because I'm feeling generous.

Review will never come.

Jul 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction, 2015
The centre of the cover and the absolute star of the book is Kayla Reunimon a.k.a. Shadow Panthe. I adored Kayla. She is a fantastic character, both as Kayla and in her persona of Shadow Panthe. Much of what defines Kayla and by extension Shadow, is her family past and her fierce protectiveness of her little brother, Corinth. Kayla fled her home world with Corinth after seeing most of her family killed by a traitorous scientist from her home system of Wyrd space. I loved the setup of the Ordochi ...more
Patrick Scattergood
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Visitors to this blog will most definitely have realised by now that I love a good ol' bit of science fiction. Book, movie, television show, I'm not fussed which form of media it takes as long as it grips me.

Well The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason is a book that falls in to that genre and comes with a fair bit of talk and hype around it. I must admit that I wasn't familiar with her work so I came in to this book with a fairly open mind.

Apparently this is going to be the first novel in a trilogy a
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scifi

I'm in a space opera romance phase and to find female pov are pretty rare!

Kayla is a badass,loyal,strong,thoughtful,smart,rational,real character.. who have to deal with overwhelming situations and she makes wise choices!

Malkon is a great character with his own disputes and hard choices and his growth to understand where his loyalty should lay is amazing.

The book is action packed, so many different situations... the bloody pit, the empress game,political alliances,rescues,betrayals a
A space opera fantasy in which our heroine, Kayla, is a deposed Princess whose family was killed in a coup sponsored by the nasty Galactic Empire, and who's currently hiding with her psionic little brother among a wretched hive of scum and villainy, making a living by gladiatorial combat. Improbably, those combat skillz get her recruited to impersonate another Princess in the Hunger For Power Games of Royalty to determine the new Empress.

This is space fantasty the way Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote
Diana Botsford
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Mason revives the space opera genre with a compelling, heart-wrenching, character-driven plot that will keep you on your seat's edge, turning every page long into the night. From the very first page we're committed to Kayla Reinumon's struggles to hide from a hostile galactic empire that had slaughtered her royal family. Barely eking out a life as a pit fighter on the fringes of the empire, her efforts to stay out of sight come into jeopardy when she's unwillingly drafted by a government faction ...more
Jul 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I’ll try to describe this novel without using the done-to-death term “kick-ass.” There’s action, for sure, intrigue, adventure, and a dash of romance. (But not that swoony, hearts & flowers mushy stuff.) Characters (especially Kayla) are vivid and just off-center enough to be unique. Although it’s space opera, most of the action takes place planetside, but there’s so much going on you won’t miss it. The most refreshing thing I found about this novel is the subtle world building. No info dumps, e ...more
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of the Miles Vorkosigan series
Quite enjoyed this, read it pretty quickly.
Despite other reviews, this is not about a fight to the death of the contestants (it's point-based sparring, with the best two out of three winning the match), and the winner of the contest does not become the ruler of the Empire. The winner marries the heir to the Emperor, and will become the Empress-apparent, but in the very complex political system of this empire, she will only be one member of a Council with 7 members. A lot of personal wealth and p
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
OMG. This is the space opera I have been waiting for ever since I finished Elizabeth Moon's Familias/Serrano/Suiza series. This is a shining example of everything right about my favorite genre. ...more
Nov 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: sifi
3.5 stars
This is a whirlwind of a book. The beginning scene started with a fight and though the book claims to have fighting as a major part of the story, the first one was without a doubt the best. The MC, Kayla is a badass princess who was forced to flee with her younger brother when the rest of her family was brutally murdered in front of her. The rest of the book revolves around her tale of triumph as a fighter and princess.

The book began with a bang, but lost me half way through. I feel l
Aug 04, 2017 added it
Shelves: grown-up, orbit
Okay so a surprising amount of insta-love, which I didn't see coming. For all the complaining grown up readers do about YA love triangles and Insta-love, I keep thinking I'll get more nuanced approaches to forgiveness and romance than I do.

Cool world, I care deeply about the characters (some of the characters), I want to know what happens next -- I'm just grumpy about the victory conditions of the ending.
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Rhonda Mason divides her time between writing, editing, bulldogs and beaching. Her writing spans the gamut of speculative fiction, from space opera to epic fantasy to urban paranormal and back again. The only thing limiting her energy for fantastical worlds is the space-time continuum. When not creating worlds she edits for a living, and follows her marine biologist husband to the nearest beach. I ...more

Other books in the series

The Empress Game Trilogy (3 books)
  • Cloak of War (The Empress Game Trilogy, #2)
  • Exile's Throne (The Empress Game Trilogy #3)

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“::Fight, Kayla. You are the sea that swallows her river, the sky that absorbs her smoke. Absorb her flow. Make it yours.:: Kayla” 0 likes
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