Published: January 2nd 2014 by Jo Fletcher Books
Format: Hardcover, 290 pages
Genres: Science Fiction
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When Everett Singh’s dad was randomly sent to one of the many parallel worlds in the multiverse, Everett discovered a way to find him on the quarantined planet E1, home of the terrifying Nahn.
Now he, along with the crew of the airship Everness, has followed a trail to the next world and his father.
But this is a world where dinosaurs have had sixty-five million years to evolve, where death is the key to the throne and where the Empress of the Sun has a plan to wipe out every other creature on her planet… and then take her conquest to Earth.
All she needs is Everett’s Infundibulum…
I love adventuring with Everett Singh and the crew of the Everness, so I’ve been looking forward to Empress of the Sun for a while now, and I’m happy to report that I really enjoyed it! The danger is increasing, and Ian McDonald is skilfully expanding the world and the characters so readers get a better sense of the bigger picture. Charlotte Villiers is trying to convince people that Everett is a threat to the Known Worlds, and to make it worse, the Everness is stuck on a planet ruled by super-dinosaurs!
Since my main issue in previous books has been that Everett Singh is too perfect, I’ll begin there. In this book we finally see a side of Everett that I’ve been looking for since Planesrunner, the side that doesn’t have all the answers all the time. We get to see that Everett can be a bit of a jerk at times, something his alter has already shown us, but seeing Everett do it too is great character development. Everett is scared of making decisions, and makes a few bad ones in this book, leading to feelings of guilt and anger while he tries really hard to make up for his perceived mistakes. Everett, alongside the reader, has always thought himself the hero of this story, but in Empress of the Sun, he begins to think he may not be.
Perfectly balanced with this is the growth of the alter’s character – Everett M – who we’ve always assumed is the enemy, but his concern for Everett’s family and friends, not only his own, forces us to reconsider our judgement.
Sen continues to be awesome in this book. She handles herself admirably when the ship is attacked, and is understandably rattled when she’s involved for the first time in violence that could kill her, and even handles Everett and his growing romantic interest in her well (no means no!). Her irrational jealousy of Everett’s friendship with one of the Jiju, who happened to be female, irritated me, but then the author skilfully reminded readers that Sen is a lot younger than is apparent by her actions, way of talking and bravery.
While the book full of amazing action sequences and a lot of adventure, hopping between the Known worlds as we follow Everett, Everette M and Charlotte Villiers, it has stagnated in terms of the series arc. It seems wrong to me, because Everett is basically still in the same position as he was at the end of the second book – he knows nothing about where his father is or what Charlotte is planning for him, he hasn’t checked up on his family yet, and he’s no closer to figuring out how to convince the Preasidium he’s not a threat. The last two chapters of the Empress of the Sun introduce a lot of this information as a teaser for the next book – which strongly hints at a much more informative and satisfying read.
The world-building is absolutely epic, as usual. The action of Empress of the Sun is largely set on a world that resembles Diskworld! Here the dinosaurs never became extinct, and instead have millions of years of evolution on humans. Although it was fun and interesting to read about, I found myself a little disappointed, mainly because the technology the Jiju had is still recognisable to Everett and the reader. People living a hundred years ago could never have envisioned the technology we have now, so I think it’s very unrealistic (super-dinosaurs aside) that the technology the Jiju have is so recognisable. It’s one of those Everett is too-perfect things again: of course he’d understand the such advanced technology because he’s so smart! Readers also get to experience Earth 7 from Charlotte’s point of view, and aside from the Alderson Disc, this is the most interesting world yet. Everyone on Earth 7 has a twin – but not a twin like we have twins. These people are basically quantum entangled on the large scale, they’re like the same person in two bodies. It’s fascinating, and I loved finding out more about them and their world.
Empress of the Sun is an amazing accomplishment, and Ian McDonald has taken his time and really expanded his world and characters throughout the book. The only thing that could be improved, in my opinion, is that the series arc didn’t progress very much. Fans of the Everness books shouldn’t miss out on the latest offering, and those looking for a quality science fiction read with a teen protagonist should pick up the first book, Planesrunner, right away!