Sometimes you want a science fiction tale to explore great new ideas or delve into cerebral topics. At others you just want a good old fashioned raygun tale. Guess which this one is. Behind the Throne explores one question: What would happen if a ne’er-do-well smuggler became ruler of the galaxy? Not willingly of course, but out of necessity, requiring all the tricks of Hail Bristol’s trade to bend rules, occasionally break them; all whilst surviving the assassins which murdered her family.
This is the kind of book which promises non-stop action and deliver wholeheartedly; with the prose structured to fit a fast flowing plot and focus primarily upon distinct singular actions or brief quips of dialogue. This makes it a breeze to look through, and that benefits the story as a whole, as despite the moments of drama it’s almost an affectionate parody of traditionalist sci-fi swashbuckling stories.
There’s rarely a moment which goes by without something exciting happening, and that’s largely thanks to Bristol herself. While the blurb hypes up her abilities, there’s no denying she’s the highlight of the book, with half the events are mostly an opportunity for her to snark at while doing something awesome. With some obvious influence from the likes of Jenny Sparks and Indiana Jones, every sequence is brought to life thanks to her personal quips, commentary and actions. Events flow easily around her inner thoughts and first person tense, and this is one of the few books to truly nail such an invasive view of a character.
Unfortunately, while Bristol is the high point, the story tends to wither away when not focused upon her. Behind the Throne’s actual story offers few real surprises on the whole, thanks to sticking to tried and tested storytelling devices. There’s nothing innately wrong with this of course, but a times you can predict the twists in your sleep. Similarly, the world-building was ill conceived. While there was an obvious attempt to hit the ground running with a short, sharp moment of action followed by a rapid introduction, the universe as a whole seemed extremely nebulous. You’re never given a sense of the baseline rules or true laws of the setting.
Behind the Throne is one of those books which honestly would have been more effective as a comic. The structure, characters, presentation and opening scenes look as if they would fit a more visual tale better than a literary one, and this is ultimately what holds it back. That said, the slick dialogue, snarky tone and Bristol’s larger than life personality carry it through to the end. Grab it if you’re after a fun if a little forgettable outing, but one with an excellent protagonist.
BEHIND THE THRONE / AUTHOR: K.B. WAGERS / PUBLISHER: ORBIT BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 4TH