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A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend--the man he trusts most and might even love--only to learn that he's secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.

Ettian Nassun's life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded. He's spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he's met Gal Veres--his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who's made the Academy feel like a new home.

But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised Academy unscathed, rattled both that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule. As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who's won his heart and trust that Gal's goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what's rightfully theirs?

304 pages, Hardcover

First published April 7, 2020

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About the author

Emily Skrutskie

10 books972 followers
Emily Skrutskie is six feet tall. She was born in Massachusetts, raised in Virginia, and forged in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. She holds a B.A. in Performing and Media Arts from Cornell University, where she studied an outrageous and demanding combination of film, computer science, and game design.

She is the author of THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US and its sequel, THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS, as well as the standalone HULLMETAL GIRLS. Her latest novel, BONDS OF BRASS, the first in a sweeping space opera trilogy, is now available. She lives and writes in Los Angeles.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,149 reviews
Profile Image for emily .
241 reviews2,102 followers
Want to read
January 9, 2020
emily skrutskie said if i can't have canon finnpoe i'll just do it myself and i respect that
Profile Image for Emily.
Author 10 books972 followers
July 12, 2019
BONDS OF BRASS is my big little troublemaker. It was the book I wrote in the spring of 2016—remember those days?—and it'd been the joyful light that's carried me through the time since then. It's made of secrets and lies and the ultimate question of how far you can trust someone who's been lying to you the entire time. It's got a half-burnt girl with a rainbow umbrella whom I love with my entire heart, and two disastrous bisexual boys who might bring the entire galaxy down around them for each other. And a horrible spaceship. And streaking. And other shenanigans. I hope it brings you even more delight than it has brought me.
Shelved as 'wishlist'
May 15, 2020
Tor: We have the LGBT+ sci-fi market cornered, bitches 😎



I keep begging for ARCs of this. This is my third Goodreads giveaway application. I have no shame bc I WANT DIS
Profile Image for Megan.
455 reviews74 followers
April 27, 2020
Some vague-ish spoilers ahead.

Bonds of Brass: Here is an evil conquering empire.
Bonds of Brass: The empress murdered her own sister.
Bonds of Brass: Much evil. So bad.

Bonds of Brass: Here is a poor, conquered world.
Bonds of Brass: They fought so bravely.
Bonds of Brass: Look at these wicked cool flying knights they had!

Bonds of Brass: Look at all these bad-ass rebels, fighting to destroy the evil empire! They're so likable and cool. These one has a metal arm and used to be a pirate! Aren't they great?

Bonds of Brass: Anyway, our heroes are going to betray them to save the evil empire. Cool, huh?

Me: Ok. That's a hard sell. But not impossible! For example, here's one way the book could have pulled it off:

Ettian: Hey, Empire that conquered my people, fuck you!
Ettian: Also, hey, what's left of my people and that fancy rebellion you're working on, fuck you!
Ettian: Literally the only thing I care about is Gal and if you're not Gal then, yep, fuck you!
Ettian: I will happily destroy this plant and any other planet to stay by Gal's side, sorry not sorry.
Gal: heart eyes
Gal: I see there are two beds in this room but let's share anyway, kk?
Wen: keeps being awesome.

Here's how the book played it:

Ettian: pages and pages of waffling indecision.
Gal: complete and total disregard for the fact that his parents literally conquered Ettien's homeworld.
Gal: apparently never considered the fact that his parents are the reason Ettien's an orphan
Gal: Get's pissy that Ettien won't share his tragic backstory with him.
Gal: demands loyalty he has no right to and occasionally makes a sad face about it, as though that makes it fine.
Wen: still awesome.

I spent the second-half of this book rooting against the main characters. Straight-up wanted their plan to fail. And that's usually not something you want from your reader.

If Gal had been presented as a stone-cold bitch who loved Ettian but still wouldn't hesitate to use him, I could have enjoyed that. If Ettian had been like the Ettian above, who'd push an orphan down so Gal wouldn't have to walk through I puddle, I would have been there with bells on.

But the book wants them to be good guys even though they are doing this objectively awful thing. So they feel bad about what they're doing even as they make no effort to think of any other plan where they don't have to do it.

Even more frustrating, there's this "twist" that you see coming from five miles away, and because it has to be a big twist saved for the end we're left without a good chunk of potential motivation for Ettian.

Most frustrating is that this book could have been so good. The way it plays with romance tropes was a delight. Ettian and Gal were adorable (well, up until Gal decides that Ettian should betray his own people because obviously Gal needs to be emperor what other choice is there smh?), and honestly just scrap the whole second half and make the whole book Gal, Ettien (and Wen!) take a roadtrip and I'd be here like, where do you want these five stars?

I will say the ending left open the intriguing possibility for some really cool hate/love Cruel Prince-eque fun and games. Problem is I have zero faith that the sequel will go there.
Profile Image for Lauren Lanz.
682 reviews245 followers
November 11, 2021
A simple truth: Sci-fi is my weakness.
There was no way I'd not love an intergalactic warfare/space opera with a best-friends-to-lovers romance...

“On my left, power without fathom in the fragile body of a boy. On my right, a nightmare of a girl who should be ruling these streets. And in the middle, there’s me.”

~★~ What is this book about? ~★~

Seven years ago, Ettian's life was destroyed by the Umber Empire's invasion of his homeworld. His miraculous survival forced him to enroll in the Umber Academy and coexist with the people that brought the downfall of everything he knew.
Years later, Ettian has risen to the top of his class, becoming a star pilot at the Academy. The life he's steadily rebuilt quickly crumbles when his best friend Gal nearly falls victim to an assassination attempt, one that reveals him to be the Umber Heir. The event forces Ettian to question whether abandoning his life to escape with Gal (the begrudging heir to the galaxy/son of the Royals who crushed his home planet) is really worth it.

“No empire is worth it if I don’t have you too.”

Bonds of Brass was such a fun journey!
Emily Skrutskie’s writing was efficient at doling out information critical to readers while also maintaining an entertainment factor that almost never wavers. I had such a good time throughout the entirety of this story; I’m amazed at how well each aspect comes together in the end! Not to mention the conclusion, which left me itching to get my hands on the next instalment.

Ettian and Gal were lovely protagonists; I grew attached to the both of them fairly quickly. Their friendship turned romance was really well done and properly paced considering the circumstances. I appreciated that their feelings for each other didn’t overshadow the main storyline, though I am eager to see more of their relationship in the rest of this trilogy.

Action commenced frequently and relentlessly, which is something I always enjoy when it comes to space adventures. With really likeable characters and a story that took me by storm, Bonds of Brass was truly impressive!
Profile Image for rin.
411 reviews488 followers
Want to read
January 9, 2020
this is so totally a finnpoe book isnt it

ill have 10
Profile Image for Jay.
62 reviews6 followers
May 15, 2020
This book was all sorts of disappointing. The true problem was that it felt like, very early on, you could see the signs of it collapsing in on itself.

The romance was chemistry-less and cheap. Nothing about the two main characters felt believable or romantic. Most of the time I was wondering why the characters were even drawn to each other in the first place. The book establishes their connection on page 1, so the reader is given no context or journey to feel attached to this dynamic at all. And it only gets worse when you sort through the plot.

The plot was paced extremely ineffectively and generally just felt lackluster. This is why I say the book collapsed in on itself: the plot bones have a lot of potential (love pulled apart by birthright, intergalactic imperialism, grappling with war and class etc.) but it goes nowhere.

My largest frustration with the book came from the POV and main character, Ettian. None of his decisions made sense and he didn't really have any fleshed-out character arc. It was not apparent why he ever thought Gal would be a pacifistic or worthwhile ruler. It was not apparent why Wen would trust him after the invasion. It was not apparent why he couldn't act on his emotions for Gal for so long (especially considering the "twist"). The Umber Empire destroyed his life and culture and yet he bafflingly spent 97% of the book trying to secure the Empire's legacy. This is already very YIKES before you add the context that Ettian is canonically dark-skinned. Mega-yikes, especially coming from a white author.

The plot twist felt extremely cheap and did not do anything to recontextualize the novel. I had already spent 300~ pages feeling disappointment on the characters, romance, and plot being flat that the "twist" just felt too late. It could have served as an interesting device if the reader was clued in earlier to what was happening. But instead, it just undermines Ettian's reliability as a narrator, when nothing about the book foreshadowed or planted that idea. It feels like one of those "it was all a dream" or "it was all part of the master plan!" twists that ALWAYS makes the reader feel like they've wasted their time.

This book was a frustrating read that left me questioning many, many key plot and character beats, and not in a good way. There was a lot of potential here for world-building, theme work, character development, and romance that, overall, went unrealized.

Also, can we retire "bloodright" as a theme in all fiction for the rest of time?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rylee Richard.
95 reviews13 followers
October 13, 2019
Ultimately a gripping science-fiction that features a him-and-him star-crossed romance within a political landscape on the cusp of a revolution. One side came to power in blood while the other side seeks justice, and Ettian must decide where his loyalties lie.

Ettian, our protagonist, is in love with a boy that tests his loyalty to his origins. His family died during the revolution when he was a kid, and he's lost so much that he's content to simply be alive and fed. His priority now is protecting Gal, his roommate and (as we discover) a central player in the power's that be. But as his people make a comeback, he must choose – does he still continue protecting the boy or does he rejoin his people?

Ettian frustrated me at times. He doesn't communicate, and he's indecisive, but mostly what drove me crazy was just how much he prioritized Gal who really didn't seem to deserve it. Gal doesn't give him the benefit of the doubt when situations call for it. Ettian is strong in conventional ways; he's a talented pilot, and goes to admirable lengths to protect Gal. But he's so self-deprecating that it can be a hard perspective to sit behind for extended periods. There are a couple of good romantic moments, but until I can really get behind Gal as a character, I just don't feel that it'll be all that fulfilling. Given where this story leaves off, it really does seem like Gal will be in a beneficial position as far as his capacity for character growth goes. Gal has a bit of growing up to do.

I'll definitely read the sequel, but I hope to see an Ettian that is more willing to claim what he wants (and hopefully he wants more than just Gal). Ettian has some growing up of his own to do.
Profile Image for Art Hyrst.
697 reviews38 followers
July 25, 2020
DNF @ 64%

The writing itself is fine in this, Emily Skrutskie is clearly a talented writer. I just have concerns about pretty much this entire book. I actually won this copy in a giveaway, not through requests, but am reviewing on Netgalley as that was how the copy was sent to me.

Initially I was worried to start with, as the book is written from the perspective of a gay/bisexual Black man with a gay/bisexual Latinx love interest, but written by a white woman. I was worried about how well the POV would be portrayed, and unfortunately in my opinion I was proved correct. From here on out, there be spoilers. Be warned.

So our main character Ettian was born and raised on Rana. The Umber empire colonised Rana and built a military academy on the planet in the rubble of the destroyed world that they /invaded and colonised/ seven years ago. Ettian watched the public execution of the leaders of his planet and lived in the rubble of his destroyed city for five years, then spent two years at the military academy before the story started. I have no issues with any of this, and if the story that followed was Ettian fighting off the Umber empire with the Rana rebels, it would have been a fun space romp. But it wasn't. Instead, Ettian finds out that his best friend of two years is the heir to the Umber empire and proceeds to turn against the Rana rebels and do everything he can to help Gal get on the throne. He says this is because Gal will be a better leader than his parents, because Gal is such a nice guy. I couldn't show you ONE scene where Gal is a nice guy. Ettian turns him down and he keeps telling everyone he's Ettian's boyfriend anyway, he wants to destroy the rebels even though he apparently doesn't agree with war, and in a spectacular moment of assholery he sends a girl back to the planet where an abuser put a bounty on her head - literally sentencing her to death without a qualm. He's NOT a nice guy.

The point where I noped the fuck out of this book was when Ettian literally thought about the fact that he could have escaped as a refugee and joined the rebellion and, in his own words, not been worn down by Umber propaganda, but decides that he wouldn't choose that because he wouldn't have met Gal. Not for nothing, but 'I wuv him' isn't a good enough reason to excuse and enable genocide. I haven't read the last forty percent of the book, but I have talked to someone who did who explained it to me, so I admit that this is secondhand information but apparently he continues to go against the rebellion until outside forces make his plan fail, and THEN he decides to join them. So he's fine with the genocide of his people up until that point.

Ettian just lacks ALL character agency, and every time he makes a choice it's the worst possible one? I love characters that are awful, I love bad characters doing bad things, but the constant implication that Ettian is right to protect Gal no matter what is so irritating. Their relationship is pre-established before the book starts, so we just get told that they're friends - we don't learn to care about them - and I just think they lack all personality. I don't think a white woman should ever have been writing this book, and I think that white POV is shining through in this gross as hell coloniser-oppressed romance story. This book was marketed with so much fluffy language and cheerful ao3 tags that I was expecting something fun and fluffy and all about the space battles. I wasn't expecting a book that half-assedly criticises genocide while acting like the power of love can fix the murder of Ettian's people (and if I've been informed right, of his FAMILY).
Profile Image for Para (wanderer).
359 reviews194 followers
March 26, 2020
Sometimes, you just have a powerful feeling that you're going to love a book and in my experience, that instinct is never to be ignored. Bonds of Brass first came to my attention randomly, on twitter. Still in the depths of my Star Wars obsession and salty over Rise of Skywalker (oh so salty), I had to request it. It seemed tailor-made for what I wanted and needed.

And it was fantastic. What it promised, it delivered in spades. Fast-paced, yup. Heavily Star Wars inspired, yup. Fun, fanfic-style romantic tropes, yup. More twists than a ship executing a complex maneuver, yup. And that ending. Holy fuck. It's the kind of book you read popcorn in hand, and then recommend to friends to watch their reactions popcorn in hand too. I'd say it even overdelivered - in places, I could barely manage a few pages at a time because the tension was too high and I was too afraid for the characters.

If a highly entertaining but not necessarily relaxing story is what you're looking for, this is the perfect book for you.

Ettian is the best pilot in the Umber Empire's military academy. Orphaned and left to fend for himself in the streets after the Umber Empire conquered his home, he has spent the last few years trying to put his life back together, forget his past, and abandon any hope that the Archon Empire might be restored. When his best friend (and let's face it, crush) Gal is revealed as the Umber heir and attacked from multiple sides, he is torn - should he help the person he loves the most or join the rebellion in hope that the Archon Empire might be restored?

First of all, the pacing is absolutely breakneck. It doesn't let go for even a page. Just when you think poor Ettian couldn't get himself more tangled up in the whole mess, there comes another twist of the knife. The plot is designed for maximum internal conflict - in a way that felt natural to me - and while that's precisely what makes it so intense and compelling, it was, at points, too much for me. Too good, perhaps. I was often too afraid for the characters to read on and could only handle reading it in short bursts. But that's 100% a me thing. AND THAT ENDING. Wow.

The reason why it works so well are the characters. It's written from Ettian's perspective, in first person, so we really get to see inside his head. It's very well done. I felt for him - his fears, his insecurities, indecision, split loyalties, trauma. He's not perfect by any means and it bites him in the ass literally all the time, but he's complex and utterly compelling. I also liked Wen, a friend they make along the way...but I did have a slight issue with Gal. We don't really get to see the side that made Ettian fall in love with him, and his compassion remains mostly an informed attribute - from his behaviour on page, he doesn't really deserve the level of adoration (and he's shitty to Wen...!). Might also be due to the limitations of intensely first-person single-POV narrative style, but the fact remains: I rooted for Ettian to join the rebellion more than for him to remain with Gal.

The world felt heavily inspired by Star Wars (a huge plus for me!) - spaceship stunts, hotshot pilots, empires, the way travel works, vibroweapons, rebellion, a group of warriors that was wiped off by the empire (OR WERE THEY) - but with enough original touches that it was more than just Star Wars with serial numbers filed off. I look forward to seeing more of it in the next book.

In short, it's fun, it's angsty, it's one hell of a ride, and I'd absolutely recommend it. And most importantly: when do we get the sequel?

Enjoyment: 3/5 because TOO INTENSE
Execution: 4.5/5

Recommended to: those who wish Star Wars was gayer, YA fans, anyone looking for a fast-paced space romp with twists
Not recommended to: fellow fools who get overattached to characters, those looking for a romance book, those who don't like books focused on internal conflict and (justified) angst

More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
591 reviews89 followers
March 19, 2020
I really liked the first 40-50% of this book but after that point I got kind of bored and confused with the story. I didn't like the pacing. There was too much action and not enough character interactions. And I don't think it had enough of Ettian's thoughts and feelings to really understand his motivations.(though I do think that that was intentional)

The relationship between Ettian and Gal seemed a little too rushed and I didn't understand why they wanted to be together. There wasn't enough of their friendship to understand why they even liked each other or how it got from that point to being in love.

Overall, I was just really dissapointed and I wish I didn't go into it with such high expectations and I don't think I'll read the rest of the series.
Profile Image for Taylor.
465 reviews133 followers
June 15, 2021
“My only allegiance is to an empire that doesn’t exist yet, to the possibility of Gal’s future rule. Maybe that makes me a traitor. Maybe it forfeits my soul. But for him—for this disastrous boy sleeping next to me—I would, I will.”


Bonds of Brass isn't just a fun, action-packed space opera, despite its genre trappings. This first book in the Bloodright Trilogy is a story brimming with complex characters, twisty motivations, and the horrifying affects of war. I was utterly compelled from beginning to end.

We follow Ettian, a former Archon citizen turned Umber soldier, who's first in his class at the Umber Flight Academy. The Archon Empire used to rule on Rana, but ever since the war and eventual Umber occupation, Ettian has pursued a place in the Umber military ranks. He lost everything in the war, and his homeland abandoned him. Now, he only has his ambitions in the Umber Flight Academy, and his best friend (and roommate) Gal.

However, when an attempt on Gal's life reveals his true identity as the Umber Heir, all of Ettian's dreams come crashing down. Not only must he and Gal flee for their lives to the fringes of the galaxy; Ettian might have feelings for the heir of the empire that ruined his life.

What follows is a high-stakes, deftly paced space romp with heart, complex emotion, and engaging characters. I couldn't get enough of this!

From the start, Ettian possesses difficult feelings for the Empire he serves. There's an element of mystery surrounding Ettian's past, and I appreciated Skrutskie's exploration of trauma in this book; how it can often lay dormant for many years, until it slowly but surely eats you up from the inside. The heart and soul of this story comes from Ettian's inner conflict surrounding his allegiances. He cares for, even loves Gal, a boy he's come to rely on since his first days in the Flight Academy. However, his old loyalties are tearing away at his heart. How could he betray his own people? Gal is all he has, but there's rebellion brewing in the Umber Empire. War is on the horizon.

I love Ettian. So dearly. He lost everything to the Umber Empire, and his loss shaped him. There's so much loss and grief within his heart, but he's also strong, ambitious, and smart. He cares fiercely for Gal, and honestly, Gal doesn't deserve him. Ettian's conflicted feelings, inner turmoil, and eventual confrontation with his past was beautifully done, and he made for a compelling, richly developed main character.

The side characters are also great! I especially adored Wen Iffan, a chaotic street-rat with her own ambitions. She's on a blazing path of revenge, and I loved her wacky antics and charming personality. What surprised me most was how much I loved Ettian and Wen's friendship. It was so meaningful, and it makes me endlessly happy to know that Ettian found a kindred spirit to share in his grief. God, I love them so much. I could read a whole book about Wen's quest for vengeance.

“On my left, power without fathom in the fragile body of a boy. On my right, a nightmare of a girl who should be ruling these streets. And in the middle, there’s me.”

The world-building is especially engaging, with plenty of rich history and distinct planetary landscapes. Sure, the conflict is pretty familar. A fledgling rebellion up against an evil, colonizing Empire. I didn't mind, though. Skrutskie put a lot of time and effort into crafting this intricate system of planets, and this world felt entirely lived-in and well-realized.

It's no surprise that my main draw for this story was the romance. Bonds of Brass was marketed as a queer space opera for fans of Stormpilot, so. I had to read it. This giph lives rent free in my mind, guys.

However, to my astonishment, my least favorite element of this book was the romance. For sure, I always enjoy bed-sharing and pining, but for most of Bonds of Brass, my dislike for Gal prevented me from fully accepting the two of them as a couple. There were plenty of tension-filled, well written scenes between them that I enjoyed. I just felt that Ettian deserved better than Gal, and as the Umber Heir, Gal was willfully blind to the suffering his empire brought upon Ettian's life. I cared too much for Ettian to let that slide.

The action thrilled me, and the writing was witty and packed a punch. There's plenty of political scheming, moral ambiguity, and wonderful characters to go around. My heart was nearly beating out of my chest by the end of this first book, and I can't wait for the sequel!


“Keep flying,” I whisper hoarsely, the roar of the air around us stifling the words as they leave my mouth. “No matter what, keep flying.”
Profile Image for Shan( Shans_Shelves) 💜.
916 reviews79 followers
April 10, 2020
Bonds of Brass is the first book in the Bloodright trilogy. It features- one tired pilot, a hidden prince, lots of mutual pinning, and a girl whose biggest weapon is her lethal Rainbow... umbrella.

In other words this book should have been everything to me. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

Like I do with all of my three star reviews, let’s start with the positives: First and foremost- WEN FREAKING IFFAN!

Wen Iffan was the HIGHLIGHT of the whole novel. The story isn’t even about her but from the moment she steps on page I was blown away. Literally- she likes to blow things up! Her friendship with Ettian was one I didn’t expect but want to see more of in the sequel.

“ I get Wen Iffan, a rainbow umbrella, and a swing so mean that the man’s head snaps back like an elastic band.”

Emily Skrutskie just has a way of writing badass women that makes me both terrified and enraptured by them. I mean she is the writer of one of my all time favourite female villains- the glorious Santa Elena- Wen is nothing short of a badass- a live wire through and through- but one I’m excited to see grow.

The world building was phenomenal- I adored all the descriptions of the different planets and the story behind both Gal and Ettian home worlds had me hooked.

Ettian is our main protagonist and I loved him. However, I do think his inner monologues became a little repetitive as the book continued- this for me brought down the middle- if it was different monologues each time, I probably could have got behind it. Throughout the book he’s thorn between loyalty to his best friend and loyalty to his lost home world.

Gal was my biggest problem with this book. I just hated his character. I am fully aware that my opinions are coloured by the betrayal and anger Ettian felt towards him throughout the novel. However, it was justified- Gal is manipulative- which would usually intrigue me but I just don’t have time for annoying male characters anymore.

Due to my immense dislike of one side of this OTP- I wasn’t here for either their romance or friendship. I will say, the romance has a slow build up and I haven’t completely lost hope. I mean upon reading Captive Prince for the first time I despised Laurent, so maybe Gal will surprise me in book two.

The plot started amazing but the middle really brought it down. So much so- I contemplated a DNF. However, the ending picks it back up again and I am going to read the sequel.

Overall: It wasn’t my favourite book- The plot started off action packed but the middle dragged it down. However the ending was brilliant, and I do think, Bonds of Brass was a good introduction to the trilogy. If sci-fi is your genre and you’re interested in reading about some morally grey space gays- you might just enjoy this more than me.
Profile Image for Mary.
22 reviews2 followers
October 12, 2020
Well. Where shall we start.

First of all, you know that thing that happens sometimes (often in an author's first book) where a character can't make up their mind and keep it for more than two sentences?

That was the case for this book, but not in the "torn between love and duty" way where it's fun and angsty. Just like in a "this is incredibly dragged out and I hate it MAKE UP YOUR FUCKING MIND" way.

Also, Ettian is just chilling with the enemy military? And okay with it? And semi-loyal to them? Like it's established that his parents were killed by this military, his planet ruthlessly conquered, and he's like la dee da, just going to JOIN THAT MILITARY WILLINGLY. AND NOT THINK TOO MUCH ABOUT IT.


Also, if someone could alert the author that "show, don't tell" is an important rule, that'd be neat.

But really, my biggest problems were these:
- a white lady wrote from the POV of a queer person of color. We can unpack that whole thing in a different essay.
- this was so pro-empire it could have been Fox News fanfic
- Ettian was DETERMINED to put the brutal, genocidal empire's heir on the throne because it was his boyfriend, and because his boyfriend was kinda nice and sometimes mentioned in military class that it would be better not to kill civilians. Like. Bitch. What? That's the bar?
- the whole Bloodright thing just isn't questioned. Gal is BORN to rule. He is OWED this. He never questions that (which is really annoying and makes me hate him even more, there are literally zero reasons to like this asshole). Even Wen, who is slightly more sympathetic and definitely more likeable, is "born" to rule her neighborhood because her mom was the violent mob boss there at least according to Ettian's internal dialogue? Like he, our POV character who had to fight for survival, is ready to just accept that some people DESERVE to rule? No one deserves to rule. No one deserves to be emperors. No one deserves anything because of who they're born to. And that's just...never really critiqued, beyond an occasional passing thought from Ettian, who is too consumed loving a boy he barely knows.
- Gal is a shitty boyfriend. Was there some part of this that was supposed to make him likeable?
- I knew fucking Ettian was the heir to the old empire basically as soon as he spent all that time explaining to us how/why heirs were hidden in like chapter fucking 3 or some shit

Anyway, the tldr: if you like imperialism and/or manifest destiny (here referred to as "bloodright"), this is the book for you!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for iam.
972 reviews130 followers
June 15, 2020
I both really liked some and really struggled with other parts of this book, but what I think it comes down to is that the impressions and expectations I got from the way Bonds of Brass was advertized did not match with what it delivered.

Read the full review here.

Content warnings include: violence, war, invasion and oppression, what essentially boils down to attempted genocide, hostage/being taken prisoner situations, homelessness; mentions of torture, death of parents, execution, electrocution, child abuse.

I think the biggest problem for my reading experience was that I expect something way happier, fluffier and funnier from the way the book was marketed with ao3-style cute ship tags and tropes. Those things all do still happen, and there are a couple fun and cute moments, but they are always short or of close to no significance.
Instead Bonds of Brass plays with impossible decisions and pits loyalty against morality, love against legacy, and dabbles heavily in the how-far-is-too-far direction. For me, the execution of that wasn't entirely successful, but that might be because I prefer unambiguously happy endings. This very much is the beginning of a trilogy. As such, there is still much to come, character development I hope among them. Even knowing that, there was too little of that for me in Bonds of Brass.
That said, I would still pick up the sequel - I want Gal and Ettian to have a happy ending, and I want to see what happens next.

I received an ARC and reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
Profile Image for Ashley.
800 reviews442 followers
May 3, 2020
Star Rating —> 4.5 Stars


THIS WAS JUST... !!!!!!!!!


I haven’t enjoyed an adventure in space this much since well, most recently, Gideon the Ninth, but also either of the Kaufman/Kristoff collabs (Aurora Rising, Illuminae)! I am so grateful I found another author who can KILLLL ITTTTTT in space!

I need my hands on The Bloodright Trilogy #2 ! NOWWWW! 😭

I seriously need time to process this. RTC

Thank you Ms. Skrutskie; I don’t know how I didn’t realize just how badly I needed this to happen again.
Profile Image for Robin.
309 reviews1,424 followers
February 15, 2021
↠ 4.5 stars

If you haven’t gotten around to reading this amazing sci-fi friends to lovers about two fighter pilots who realize that one is the heir to the throne of the empire that overthrew his home world, then you are contractually obligated to do so after reading this run on sentence. This book had everything—excellent world building, complex and well flushed out characters, and a frustratingly slow romance between the two main characters. Everything from the underlying ethical dilemmas, to the internal battle of loyalty at work within the main characters made this book so intense and gripping. It all came to a head with a smashing ending and a twist I definitely didn’t see coming. I’m certainly looking forward to the next installment, whenever that may be.
Profile Image for Emily Duncan.
Author 5 books2,756 followers
November 11, 2019
Profile Image for Baya.
75 reviews
April 10, 2020
Did I go into this thinking it would be elaborate finnpoe fanfiction? Yes.

Was it though? Absolutely not and not in a good/interesting way.

After I caught on to the fact that these characters were nothing like Finn and Poe, I put aside comparing it to Star Wars but it was still underwhelming. I thought this book was going to be kind of like a space rom-com but with a lot angst. It was not at all. Keep in mind I think my very high expectations was my downfall. I haven’t felt this let down since I walked out of tros.

My main problems were:
1. I loathe Gal. I don’t understand why Ettian is so loyal to him, I don’t see the appeal that much and Gal really just seems like the type of person who would murder people but then claim he’s the victim. I’m confused as to how he justified him planning on annihilating a whole rebellion of people who were misplaced/cast out because of his parents starting an regime that resulted in a lot of bloodshed and the deaths of civilians. I know he said something about being scared and being in a rough spot. People have and are dying, Gal, can you not stop thinking of yourself for two seconds so you can maybe gain some perspective? I’m getting Rhysand flashbacks at this point. I’m not saying he can’t be scared but he knowingly went to the rebellion base and you can’t claim to be a pacifist but organise a mass murder at the same time. It just doesn’t make sense. Also, I would’ve betrayed Gal 17 times over during the course of the book but that’s just me.

2. Considering how much I hated Gal, it made me hate anyone who liked him which meant Ettian was pretty bad too. I’m not really sure what was going through his head, which I guess was the point, but instead of getting the sense he was very conflicted, he just seemed so contradictory and hypocritical. He’s manipulating everyone to the point no one is happy, especially him. He should have the word “misleading” tattooed on his forehead.

3. And then we get to Ettian and Gal together which must be the most catastrophic ship I’ve ever read. I’m not a big fan (putting it lightly) of miscommunication but I would’ve preferred that to the blatant lying and manipulation going on in their relationship. It wasn’t the angsty good type of deception like Jude and Cardan from the Cruel Prince because at least they knew not to trust each other and were upfront about it. Ettian and Gal act like they’re saints (they are slightly self aware) who deserve a medal just because they think they have each other’s best interests at heart. Also, why were they friends? Why did they like each other so much? Where did their feelings for each other come from because that wasn’t explored at all. There’s a yada yada, now look we want be with each other! Where’s the build up? Where’s the tension? I still don’t understand how they can tolerate each other. Why are they in love? I’m sooooo confused. If I spoke about how much I hate them together, we’d be here all day.

4. Let’s pour one out for the amount of times I had to read ruttin’ hell/variations on the word rut. Replace it all with the word f*ck and there’s so much swearing it’s boring.

Wen really carried the book for me although I have some issues with her too but in the grand scheme of things she was the light in an otherwise very bleak book.

Ultimately, the last 10% of the book was quite interesting although I didn’t like the plot twist or where I think the plot will go. I’m not sure if I’ll read the next book but at least there’s some acknowledged angst and betrayal so hopefully it’ll will better.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for bella.
92 reviews35 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
April 13, 2021
edit 4/4/2020: honestly the more i reflect on this book the more i dislike it. a white woman should not be writing and profiting off of stories about poc. not to mention how poorly the book handles themes of imperialism and colonization. the whole concept of “bloodright” doesn’t sit right with me. if it were possible to give zero or negative stars, i would.

thank you to netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

i was excited to get an arc of this ages ago, but unfortunately i got about 85% through and never finished. this seems to be an unpopular opinion based on the other reviews, but i don’t think this book was for me. at all. it combines tons of things that sparked my interest (sci-fi, gay pining, space, and more), but i couldn’t get into it as nearly as much as i was hoping to.

there was plenty of world-building potential that i wanted to explore more and the plot was fairly active, but even with many things happening, i never felt particularly excited to continue reading. one of the few things that made me read (struggle through) as much as i did was that i was hoping to find out more about the survivors of the old empire and their rebellion. i kept waiting to get sucked in, but unfortunately that never happened.

it was difficult for me to connect with the two main characters and despite the feelings being spelled out, i failed to actually feel any romantic chemistry between them, nor even the depth of friendship they supposedly had from being roommates for years. i found myself constantly frustrated by ettian’s decisions and unable to understand his motivations. it was honestly very troubling that he would more or less excuse/enable genocide—of his own people no less—simply because he had a crush on his friend (who he finds out early on in the book is secretly the heir to the empire). further, i was annoyed by gal’s behavior and could never really empathize with him wanting to return home to his colonizer/murderer parents. throughout the book, which is told from ettian’s perspective, it’s mentioned that gal is a good person, but that fails to really be proven on the page.

i was uncomfortable with many aspects of the genocide and imperialism and how it was treated in the book, especially how ettian was seemingly willing to overlook that and betray his people because of his feelings for gal... this is all made more uncomfortable because ettian is described as having darker skin, (and the fact that this is written by a white author).

what i read of this book (which was the majority of it) was disappointing in many ways. the synopsis set up a great deal of potential for a complex world, well-developed and fascinating characters, and a relationship that you want to root for. however, it missed the mark on all of those. any elements of the book that could’ve been redeemable are unfortunately outweighed by the imperialism. the one thing i did enjoy in the book was the character wen, but there wasn’t nearly enough of her. i can see how this book appealed to other readers, but it just didn’t work for me. maybe i will finish it eventually someday (this seems unlikely), but im setting it aside indefinitely...
Profile Image for Rebecca Roanhorse.
Author 59 books7,599 followers
January 1, 2020
I blurbed this book and said: "An exciting YA space opera full of action and adventure that explores the bonds of loyalty and love and what happens when they are stretched to their limits."

Lots of fun, great tension between the characters, danger, excitement - it's all there. The resolution was a bit jarring but not fatally so. A solid YA space opera.
Profile Image for Nerily.
101 reviews673 followers
April 10, 2020
So... this was bad. But not for the reason you could think of.
If any of you is here to read a stormpilot fanfic... WHY?! Just go on AO3.
This is not a fanfic, rightly so.

But it is bad. So this is more a romance than everything else. I like romance, but when I want to read a romance I read a romance. Could you like this book? Probably. I kinda did. But you could read something else with similar elements and appreciate that more.

It's just not well written, there are so many elements to create tension and contrast between the characters, and the tension is there but just fell flat. The main character explains EVERYTHING, the history of the universe, himself, his bff, his problems but nothing is left for the readers to see for themselves. Everything is told, not much can be seen otherwise. I think this summarize well the book.

But I REALLY like the girl! She's crazy. Love it

I will read the sequel.

If you don't mind main spoilers:
Profile Image for Justine.
1,132 reviews309 followers
November 7, 2020
Nice! This was even better than I expected.

A great adventure and hidden-identity story, augmented with a typically angsty-ish (but in a totally good way) m/m young adult romance. Lots of feels. Lots of fun. The summary of the book pretty much delivers as promised.

I'm definitely reading the next book, Oaths of Legacy.

Note on the audiobook: the narrator did an amazing job; this is definitely a good choice if you are considering audio.
Profile Image for Kat.
150 reviews216 followers
April 29, 2020
From the outset, the world of BONDS OF BRASS is absolutely fascinating: from the naming system to the mechanics of every ship flown, Skrutskie has clearly put a lot of time and effort into the creation of the world Ettian and Gal inhabit, and that work has paid off. I particularly appreciated learning why Rana was conquered by the Umber Empire, as I have often been disappointed in books' explanations for war and conquest. The characters, too, were an absolute delight to read about, from Wen to Esperza, and the romance between Ettian and Gal was the perfect inclusion to balance out the heaviness of the war-making. The sheer amount of diversity was such a breath of fresh air, as I myself am a queer woman: From the casualness and acceptance of Gal and Ettian's relationship to Sims' two mothers, this was a future of a world that gives me hope.

That said, there was a problematic aspect to this, namely that Ettian is a man of color whose planet was conquered and colonized by Gal's family, the white imperial family. Ettian spends much of the book trying to get Gal on the throne, and although his reasons are understandable, it didn't fully sit right with me.

I cannot wait to see what book 2 has in store.
Profile Image for alex.
105 reviews111 followers
June 1, 2020
we don’t need another white woman writing QPOC books. please find own voices stories to read & support Black authors and Black queer characters. here are some:

CLAP WHEN YOU LAND - Elizabeth Acevedo
WORK FOR IT - Talia Hibbert
FELIX EVER AFRER - Kacen Callender
ALL BOYS AREN’T BLUE - George M. Johnson
FULL DISCLOSURE - Camryn Garrett
ODD ONE OUT - Nic Stone
Profile Image for Siria.
1,791 reviews1,305 followers
February 20, 2021
For the first couple of chapters of Bonds of Brass, I was settling in for an enjoyable, four-star read: a pulpy, Star Wars-inflected space opera in which a young military cadet, Ettian, finds out that his best friend (and maybe boyfriend), Gal, is secretly the heir to the empire responsible for the death of Ettian's parents and the destruction of his whole society. Emily Skrutskie kicks off the novel with a starfighter skirmish that's a lot of fun to read, and throughout Bonds of Brass she writes some decent action-adventure scenes.



Look, it's the 2984th month of the pandemic. I wasn't asking a lot of this book: just for it to be a fun and escapist read with some queer romance and maybe some laser swords or something. My needs aren't extravagant! But this is a lazily written book, as if Skrutskie decided that people would pick it up solely on the promise that it would give them the romantic relationship between Star Wars' Finn and Poe that they'd wanted to see, only thinly-veiled. Why, then, bother to put any craft into it if you know the marketing will help you find a ready fanbase?

That lack of craft starts to become apparent after those first few chapters, and the whole book becomes steadily more exasperating after that. There's absolutely no chemistry between Gal and Ettian, with Ettian thinking a lot about the fact that he likes Gal but never really showing it through his emotions or actions. Why did they ever like one another? Honestly, having read all 300+ pages of this book, I'm fucked if I know, beyond "Ettian liked that one paper Gal wrote for a class that one time that argued for minimising civilian casualties."

And maybe I'm being reductive here, but that seems less compelling than the fact that Gal's parents are, again, responsible for the death of Ettian's parents and the destruction of his whole society.

None of the actions or reactions of the POV character, Ettian, made much sense, particularly in light of the end "twist" (which is so clunkily signposted that I figured it out around about chapter 5 or 6—out of 31).

Nor did the actions of most people whom Gal and Ettian encountered. The plot depends on a lot of people whom we're told are battle-hardened veterans being shockingly gullible, if not outright stupid, and one character whom we're repeatedly told is a pacifist, the galaxy's best hope for peace, acting like an outright sociopath.

Add in the facts that Skrutskie adopts an attitude towards imperialism which could most charitably be described as muddled, displays a real limited understanding of trauma or politics, and emphasises "blood" as justifying people's claims on power in ways that are highly uncomfortable, and you end up with a book that I can't recommend. I won't be reading the rest of this trilogy—for all those reasons, and because I'm quite certain that I can already predict how the third book will end.

Profile Image for kelsey.
277 reviews17 followers
August 20, 2021
"There's a dangerous instinct that kicks in sometimes when you're flying. The adrenaline pushes you into doing the most reckless thing you can think of the second the option appears. Recognizing that instinct is hard.

Stopping it is harder."

When Ettian Nassun was a child, the Umber empire took over his home planet Rana; 7 years later, Ettian has put that behind him and joined the Umber military academy, where he’s be training to fly an Umber military ship. His best friend and roommate (Oh my god, they were roommates) Gal Veres is not as good of a pilot but is adept at diplomacy. He’s also something of a pacifist, frequently going off course in his classes to tear down the Umber empire’s violent military strategies, to the chagrin of his teachers.

During one of their flying drills, their classmates attempt to assassinate Gal, forcing him to reveal to Ettian that he is the Umber heir. It’s not long until Gal will be expected to take the throne, and Ettian believes he’s their best chance at creating a more peaceful empire. As Ettian works to keep Gal safe, he uncovers a rebellion against the Umber empire led by people from his home, and finds himself at a crossroad: does he continue to help the boy he loves, or does he help the rebellion take back his home?

I have really been looking forward to this book since it was announced, and it was frequently being talked up as a balm to the dashed hopes of FinnPoe shippers. And it definitely was! Bonds of Brass is an action-packed space adventure with plenty of flying scenes and a romance featuring fake dating and there is only one bed, aka, a book designed specifically with me in mind.

I loved every moment of Bonds of Brass. It drew me in immediately, and between the characters, the action, and the plot, it never let me go. It is fast paced but with a ton of character building moments as well, and I loved the three main characters. They were all so different and came from different, interesting backgrounds but they worked well as an ensemble, and Emily Skrutskie deftly handled the evolving dynamics between the three of them. All three of them were really likable while having believable flaws: Wen Iffan is reckless and surprisingly cavalier with her own safety (and by extension, the safety of others), but her story, her relationship with Ettian, and the fact that she is a lot of fun make her a great character; Gal is charming, funny, and critical of his family’s violent ways, but is frustratingly blind to the evils of the Umber empire that are less violent in nature, and has a ruthless streak that frightens Ettian; and Ettian himself has a soft heart that makes him so lovable but gets him into trouble, and frequently takes care of others over himself, to the point where I desperately wanted him to consider his own desires for once!

The romance is handled perfectly as well. It is not a quick and easy get together-Gal and Ettian both struggle with how they feel and how a relationship will affect their plans. Ettian in particular struggles with the knowledge of who Gal really is and what Ettian’s role would be in his life, and as the novel is narrated from Ettian’s point of view, his struggles are heartbreaking and compelling. The second book is narrated from Gal’s point of view, and I’m really excited to see the relationship from his eyes.

Bonds of Brass is a short, page-turning read that is so much fun, and I am eager to read the next one.

Original review:
i have been told this will fill the Finn/Poe shaped hole in my heart, i can't wait until april!
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,040 reviews3,437 followers
April 1, 2020
If you are looking for a page-turning sci-fi novel full of action and intrigue with a queer star-crossed romance at its center, then do yourself a favor and pick up Bonds of Brass! The storytelling here is top notch with twists, angst, and complicated relationships. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can't wait to see where things go in the sequel.

Ettian was orphaned and left on the streets as a child when the Umber empire attacked and took over his home world. Years later, he is a promising young pilot in the imperial military academy, trying to leave his past behind him. But when his best friend is attacked, he risks his life to save him, only to find that he is secretly the heir of the colonialist Umber empire. His loyalties will be challenged between the friend he is falling for and the future of his people as they go on the run.

I won't say much more because I don't want to spoil the story, but there is a great mix of character and relationship development, action, and political intrigue. The world created here is an interesting one and the author effectively leverages the complexities of love, family, duty, and desire for retribution. I didn't necessarily find myself rooting for love to win the day given other things at stake, and that was unexpected and deftly done. If you are an emotional reader, this one just might tear you apart, but in the best possible way. Highly recommend. I received an advance copy of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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