Praise-worthy imagination and world-building, but sadly, it’s time to admit that Max Gladstone’s books aren’t suitable for me.
Empress of Forever has been on my TBR ever since I first heard about it. Judging from the blurb alone, I was immediately intrigued. Just read the blurb, seriously, it sounds so cleverly insane and my god, Gladstone delivers completely on this; stunningly original and cool world-building to witness. That’s exactly what I found to be brilliant from Gladstone’s books, his world-building, action scenes, prose, and ideas always feel refreshing and unique. I’ve read only two books in his Craft Sequence series and the things that worked for me there is even more evident here. I won’t lie that there were a lot of moments from this book that made me truly flabbergasted because it’s extremely imaginative. Time travel, an ancient Empress that could destroy a planet with a single thought, character literally sitting on a freaking comet flying through space, sentient machines, dead planets, and many more insanity that’s crazier than the one I just mentioned; there’s no shortage to Gladstone’s ambitious imagination in creating this novel.
Now then, what made this book didn’t work for me came to the same reason why Craft Sequence didn’t work, his characters always felt lacking in motivations and personality to me. This could be just me, I know a lot of readers who’ve loved Gladstone’s characters in Craft Sequence. I found his characterizations to be not prioritized. Many of the characters lack detail in motivation and feelings that are necessary to make me care for their journey. For instance, Vivian Shao was catapulted to the future at the beginning of the book. The entire storyline revolves around her gathering a crew of misfits to defeat the Empress so she could go back to her present timeline and be reunited with Magda. Why? Viv did say that she wants to return the present timeline, which she hates, and Magda is important to her. However, there wasn’t enough scene that shows that importance; just because she said it doesn’t instantly means or look like she genuinely cares. Viv even looked like she’s having fun more in the future timeline. The only character that I ended up finding interesting was Zanj, that’s it. Not gonna lie, I DNFed this book somewhere around 65% and I just can’t bring myself to continue further because I simply don’t care about the characters’ journey; cool ideas and world-building alone aren’t what I’m looking for in a novel.
It’s a shame that I can’t love Gladstone’s work more. I bounced off Craft Sequence but I really thought I was going to enjoy this one. Empress of Forever is full of brilliant world-building and crazy stories, but unfortunately none of the characters made me feel invested. This is probably where I stop with reading his work.
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)