Behind the Throne (Book Review)

person hiding behind a stack of books

I picked up Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers on a whim at the library, browsing in the W section at the library. I loved the cover, and decided to take it home.

I’m not really sure what I expected, though I assumed that there would be a strong female character, and a male love interest that would develop throughout the book.

I got one part of that right.

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Some spoilers below, but I won’t give away the ending of any book.

Behind the Throne is the first book in a three-part series (The Indranan War series). As of writing this post (2020), Wagers is in the middle of another series with the characters who survived the first war (The Farian War series).

The opening to Behind the Throne might be some of the strongest and most compelling writing of the entire three-part series.

We enter into this world in the aftermath of a chaotic fight, one that the main character and only survivor (Hail Bristol) barely remembers. Within pages, the action starts boiling for three books, and from there it barely drops to a simmer again until the series concludes.

Hail is contacted by a pair of “Trackers,” specialized and skilled people from her world who excel at finding people/things and retrieving them. They find her, drag her kicking and fighting, back to her home world (Indrana), to face some terrible and devastating news. From there (and through the rest of the Indranan War series), Hail works to end the war and return her planet to peace and prosperity.

So yes, Hail Bristol is a very strong, type A, kick the doors down female character that I love reading about in books.

In the beginning of this first book, there were a lot of questions and little details that make you think that there might be a spark between Hail and one of the trackers, but that never develops into anything.

In fact….Hail never sparks with any of the characters in the three books of the Indranan War series, which I found to be surprising and unusual, given that most books with a strong female lead, written by a woman, involve some sort of romantic liaison.

woman sitting in a leather chair reading a book with bookcases full of books behind her

I think the truth is that this book just doesn’t have time for it. There’s just too much action, too much desperate fighting, too much at stake.

Now, to say that there isn’t anything about love and relationships in this book is to overstate things a bit.

There is a lot of love in this book. One of the things I see now having read the series is that the people of Indrana are more touchy than we people of real Earth are. The characters (not romantically involved), frequently hold hands, hug, or touch their foreheads together. This is not a sign of romantic love, though it is often a sign of a strong love between the characters.

In truth, Hail loves many of the characters in her book deeply, and is devastated when any of them are lost (which happens frequently).

Even the Tracker who I thought would be the main love interest for Hail is someone that she loves deeply, though it is not a romantic love, and he is paired with someone else.

Overall Impressions/Thoughts

I thought this book (and the rest of the series) is fairly good overall, but I wouldn’t call it perfect.

I thought it was creative for Wagers to use various Earth cultures as the model for the cultures of entire planets, such as the Indian culture for Hail’s home world of Indrana. It provided a layer of complexity I wasn’t expecting and made it really different from a lot of the other sci-fi offerings out there.

I liked the use of the smati neuro-net devices implanted in their heads, as it dramatically changed what the characters did and could do (and communicate).

I enjoyed the action, but I thought the fight scenes were a bit vague, and probably not all that real to life, more like a movie (exchanging blows rather than the melee any real fight would turn into).

The space battle scenes were brief, and were somewhat weak in my opinion. There wasn’t a lot of detail, and I found myself wanting to know more about what happened or how it happened.

If you read the book once, you will be too involved in speeding through the text to find out what happens next to really think much about the space battle scenes, or the likelihood of some things happening/or not.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t call it “deep.”

But a book doesn’t have to be deep to be enjoyable.

person sitting on top of a stack of books with bare feet

There were a lot of jumps that required a leap of faith, and some things that just plain didn’t quite make sense.

For example….it bothered me that the Trackers were wearing personal shields in the opening pages of Behind the Throne, making it hard for Hail to fight her way away from them. But then the people around her seemed to seldom ever use that technology again, and many, many people around her were shot and killed….maybe they forgot their shields at home?

Hail is supposed to be this super space bad-a** and her Trackers (and other guards) are even apparently more bad-a** than her, but for as awesome as they were supposed to be, they had a really tough time staying alive.

I will say that Hail cries a lot more than I’d expect such a tough nut to cry, and she is constantly drinking chai or hard alcohol, without ever having to stop to use the restroom (I can think of one bathroom break in the second book).

This is more of a political drama than a romantic drama, so the book does work without the need or necessity for a romantic entanglement for Hail. But if I were being honest, I think I was looking for it throughout the series, and I was a little disappointed when I got to the end of the three books and Hail hadn’t ever connected with someone for herself.

Would I Recommend this Book (and others in the Indrana War series)?

I would, wholeheartedly. I have read the entire series more than once (I do that, okay, don’t judge me). It was in subsequent readings that I started to pick apart the books a little more than I did the first time through.

I can’t give it 5 stars (which I reserve for only the best and knock my socks off books), but I would happily give it 4+, for sheer entertainment value.

One thing I really wish Wagers would do, is to create some novellas or even a companion book (like Stephanie Meyers’ Midnight Sun) and take us through everything that happened from Emmorlian’s eyes, or even Hao’s eyes. It would be really cool to learn more about these mysterious characters, and see what they are seeing, and know what they know.

Wagers constantly hints about the pasts of many of the characters, of complex relationships, of traumatic events, but those teasers have not yet really been made us of yet in her books.

man lying on a couch reading a book

What’s next for Wagers?

Right now, K.B. Wagers is in the middle of her Farian War series, book two just came out at the end of 2019. I read book one and then book two in the series so far. While I don’t think that either of the books so far is as compelling as the opening scenes of Behind the Throne (as Hail is dragged home to face the chaos her planet has been plunged into), they are still well written and entertaining, and I am enjoying them.

I’m definitely going to be watching for the third book in this series, and I’ll be happy to try out any other series that this writer produces even if it is in a different universe or in a different genre.

Have you read anything by Wagers? Let me know what you recommend in the comments section below.

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