cover image Behind the Throne

Behind the Throne

K.B. Wagers. Orbit, $14.99 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-316-30860-1

Taut suspense, strong characterization, and dark, rapid-fire humor are the highlights of this excellent SF adventure debut. Hail Bristol has spent years earning a reputation as one of the galaxy’s most notorious smugglers. But her biggest challenge is dealing with her mother, the ruler of the Indranan Empire. The empress has sent two relentless Trackers, Emmory and Zin, to drag Hail to the last place Hail wants to go—home to the empire—to be the new heir after her sisters were murdered. Hail doesn’t care about duty, but she does intend to find out who killed her sisters, especially once she realizes the assassins may have also killed her father years before. Byzantine political intrigue, the empress’s growing senility, and a looming war mean the initially despised Emmory and Zin may be the only people Hail can trust, and her gunrunning skills will serve her well at home too. Wagers’s debut is a deviously labyrinthine adventure in which smuggling is less dangerous than interstellar politics. Hail is at her most intriguing when she’s unashamed of who she was and may still need to be, and her personality is a perfect mix of cunning and flaws that she never quite patched. Agent: Andrew Zack, Zack Company. (Aug.)