A pretty, empty throne
Serviceable. It's the most damning faint praise, but is it really all that bad? There are many worse things to be than "serviceable", but no one's going to celebrate it either. Behind the Throne is serviceable, but that shouldn't turn you off immediately.
Behind the Throne follows Hail, an escaped princess. She's the heir to the Indranan empire, but she ran from her home planet to pursue her father's killer. She became a dangerous gunrunner, until she was apprehended by Trackers sent from Indrana. Her sisters have been killed, and her empress mother is ill, leaving her the most viable heiress. She quickly learns that being heir to the throne is just as dangerous as being a gunrunner, as she's beset upon by forces that want her power.
There's nothing really wrong with Behind the Throne, but it's not particularly great either. I struggle to come up with particularly compelling reasons to recommend it, but its flaws are easy to ignore. Its characters are a little flat, and it abuses the word "gunrunner" from beginning to end, but it moves at a brisk pace and it's certainly not a bore. Hail and the Indranan empire are under lots of external and internal threats, which give the plot some life, but the political machinations never reach deep enough. I won't hesitate to say there's not a single shocking moment.
Behind the Throne is pretty much a picture perfect summer read. It's not going to blow anyone's mind, but it'll take you for a little ride over 300 something page. It sets up a broader conflict for the inevitable sequel, but it isn't all that ambitious itself. Maybe with a wider scope and some insight into just what conflicts Hail was enabling during her time as a gunrunner, the sequel could be something special or at least more interesting. As it is, Behind the Throne is alright but you probably have something better to read in your backlog.
Baseline Assessment: 7/10
Bonuses: +1 competently builds a complex universe around Hail
Penalties: -1 doesn't do much with it
Nerd Coefficient: 7/10 (an enjoyable experience, but not without its flaws)
POSTED BY: brian, sci-fi/fantasy/video game dork and contributor since 2014
Reference: Wagers, K. B. Behind the Throne [Orbit, 2016]