#SPFBO Review: Skies of the Empire

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In the Skies of the Empire, there are only two things more terrifying than dragons: the attentions of the gods, and the machinations of the Fae. Airship pilot Cassidy Durant finds herself entangled with both when a Faerie named Hymn saves her life in exchange for protection against unknown enemies. This complicates her simple life of cargo trading, since affiliating with the Fae is a death sentence in the Empire.

Meanwhile, reluctant mercenary Zayne Balthine is tasked by his employer, a devout worshiper of the Desert Goddess, to break into the Imperial Palace. It’s not his first suicide mission, but this time, things are different. That he’ll die should he fail is nothing new. But if he succeeds, he will be responsible for unfathomable death and devastation.

Goodreads Link: Skies of the Empire (Dreamscape Voyager #1)
Author: Vincent Thorn
Genre: Steampunk fantasy
Rating: 3/5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. It starts off exciting with an airship fighting a dragon and quickly ramps up when they encounter the Fae. There are so many elements here that I love. But the writing leaves a lot to be desired and it was hard for me to enjoy the experience.

First, the good stuff: as I mentioned, there are Fae, dragons, airships, gun play, and more fun steampunk and fantasy elements. It’s always fun when mortals go against their better judgment and make a deal with the Fae. The main character, Cassidy, is also likable because she never gives up and she’s loyal to her crew. There is a fun camaraderie among the crew so all the characters on the Dreamscape Voyager are entertaining to read about, even Kek. I would have had fun just reading about their hijinks together and there is some of that here. The book is peppered with little tales about their past adventures.

But the bad stuff: first of all, I hated Zayne. I found myself skimming a lot of his viewpoint chapters. I was afraid he was going to be Cassidy’s love interest and I did not want that at all. It took a while for me to see how his part of the story was even relevant to Cassidy’s. Also, all the flashbacks are really tedious because there is so much drama and angst in his background. I found it to be overdone. Talk about fridging female characters to create a tragic backstory for a male protagonist! I think the author was trying to make Zayne sound sympathetic, but it felt like every other scene, there was some reminder about his dead mother. Zayne is constantly having flashbacks, wanting to vomit, and vomiting. I don’t know how he got anything else done while he was constantly spewing his guts and whining about his dead mother.

That leads me to my next complaint, this story takes a whole shaker of salt to believe in anything. Every character seems capable of doing impossible things while barely breaking a sweat. Even when they’re injured, they can push through the pain. Zayne gets shot three times, barely sits still long enough to be stitched up, and then he’s running and fighting again within a day or two. Later, when Cassidy overcomes her greatest injuries, it’s said to be magic, but after a whole book of characters shrugging off major wounds, it doesn’t seem very remarkable. Nothing ever seems to be very hard for anyone until randomly one character refuses medical treatment, spends half an hour chatting with everyone, and dies. Because prophecy or something.

Also, the constant vague reminders of prophecy were annoying. Cassidy keeps getting hints at something bigger but most of it never goes anywhere. Maybe they finally get revealed in later books, but the one reveal in this book was disappointing. I don’t know why everyone was mad about it, either. The reactions were strange.

Finally, the writing was really rough. I was actually surprised that there is an editor credited for working on the book because of the number of errors in this text. There weren’t many typos or misspelled words, but words are constantly repeated like “he he” or “any any” and quotation marks pop up in random places. Also, it’s generally considered good grammar to start a new paragraph for each character’s actions, but this narrative jumps around constantly. So many long paragraphs felt like they were run-ons. This forced me to go back and re-read sections to piece together what was going on. Not an easy read by any stretch.

LGBT representation: at least two of the female characters are lesbians. Neither of them has a relationship during the course of the story but one had a significant relationship in the past which has consequences for the plot.

In the end, I was disappointed and I don’t think I’ll be continuing the rest of the series.


I'm an author, a blogger, and a nerd. I read and write fantasy.