Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist.
Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity’s long-awaited savior. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana’s power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted by embracing her mother’s power or rejecting it forever.
Warnings: gore, physical violence, gun violence, abuse, self-harm (food and sleep deprivation), war and mentions of genocide, depersonalization, partner abuse
Wow this is a difficult review to write because I am still processing things from that ending, and I don’t really feel I can sum up the book so well. But I’ll still try and make this coherent lol.
Continuing right after Furyborn, this book starts with both Rielle and Eliana being anointed as Sun Queens in their respective eras. While Rielle is being celebrated and paraded about, Eliana is still trying to come to terms with the existence of magic and being the Blood Queen’s daughter. Rielle is the most powerful elemental in ages, and she starts to get drunk on her own power; it doesn’t help that Corien is always in her head, trying to goad her and constantly poisoning her. Eliana, fearful of her powers, but wanting to save her friends, reluctantly starts to train.
Even with a slow pace, this book is quite engaging and intense. Rielle’s story progression shows her becoming increasingly frustrated with the limitations placed on her out of fear, the tenuous love and adoration of people that turns on her when she commits mistakes, the pride and ego that leads to her feeling stifled in her kingdom. As she dips further and further into her power, she instinctively learns more about how the empirium works, and as the need arises, she moves into uncharted territory with them. Her attraction towards Corien and the secret of the trials continues to threaten her relationship with Audric, whom she loves so much, and who is very patient and understanding for the most part. Meanwhile, Eliana is horrified by what she is, what her powers did, and feels that she can’t take on the mantle of being Sun Queen. Simon urges her to trust in her power, and in their plan to stop the Emperor, but it takes her quite a while to finally understand how to access the empirium and how to use it in good ways. Her paths cross with Red Crown frequently, and her friendship with Zahra mean that she gets more insight into the nature of the Undying Empire. The contrast and commonality between the two is built up so well, with Rielle’s darker side paralleling Elian’s better side, but then also reminding us that the titles of Blood Queen and Sun Queen could have gone to either of them.
As for the secondary characters like Corien, Ludivine, Audric, Simon, Jessamyn and Harkan, we do get to see things from their POV, too, through the occasional chapter, which enriches the story in terms of background and plot. We get to see more kingdoms as Rielle travels to collect the castings of the saints to help close the Gate properly (though that is sorta abandoned by the end) but the political turmoil back in Celdaria that changes her path. Eliana’s path in the plot, well, feels a bit more vague, as most of her story arc is about tapping into her power; initially she has that mission to get the antidote, but after that it is just being someplace somewhere and helping out, and her romance with Simon. Speaking of romance, this book has some good steamy scenes (Audric and Rielle mainly, I still don’t see much chemistry between Simon and Eliana). The ending was a bit chaotic because it delivered one shock after another, and then a twist, too that is probably going to haunt me till I read the next book.
Is it diverse? Both protagonists are bisexual, with one of them being biracial; biracial love interest, secondary queer and POC characters
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Sourcebooks Fire, via Edelweiss.
Previous book in the Empirium Trilogy
Releases on May 21, 2019