Review: ‘Vows of Empire’ Is a Fitting End to ‘the Bloodright Trilogy’ 

It's hard to believe that it has been two years since Ettian, Gal, and Wen came into our lives in Emily Skrutskie's Bonds of Brass. Since then, their story has evolved as Ettian and Gal grew into their roles on opposite sides of a galactic struggle, and Wen morphed into an even more powerful and strong-willed character. In Vows of Empire, the fragile balance that holds all of this together feels like it could fall apart at any minute.

The book opens a little while after the ending of Oaths of Legacy, with Ettian and Gal on opposite sides of the galaxy, dealing with the political upheaval around the never-ending bloodright struggle. They concoct a plan to “win the war” in less than 300 pages and what ensues is a somewhat messy, convoluted story. Skrutskie opts to telegraph the notion that the reader is in the dark about the cloak and dagger scheming Ettian and Gal are doing, but it's all there, right in front of us.

It's an odd choice, to say the least, and detracts from the storytelling potential as the trio tries to solve the galaxy's problems. Somehow, in the midst of all of this, Wen overtakes Gal and Ettian's story, and I'm not entirely mad about it. Oaths of Legacy proved that Wen was one of the best characters in the series, and Vows of Empire solidifies it.

As much as I enjoyed the conclusion of Vows of Empire, the journey to get there was a genuine struggle. Bonds of Brass and Oaths of Legacy had flaws, but the fast-paced action and central emotional core kept them compelling and fresh. With Vows of Empire, the story's heart isn't quite there. Skrutskie focuses on the galactic struggle aspect—the overwrought politicking that doesn't make much sense when looking beneath the surface. The mechanics of the struggle and the rationale behind the conflict are very trite, and some of the moments that could have been tense, and heart-wrenching, felt watered down.

What Vows of Empire does exceptionally well is show how natural a storyteller can include queer characters in their story. These galactic empires aren't prejudicial against Ettian and Gal's love—even if they are politicking to ensure that one of them is dead. Some titles accommodate non-binary leaders or leaders that don't quite fit into the masculine and feminine-coded titles. Skrutskie shows that it is quite easy to incorporate all of this into a sci-fi realm without bringing the weight of prejudice.

This aspect of the trilogy is what I signed up for when I read the ARC for Bonds of Brass, but the journey to get here took an unusual route in the third book. Skrutskie proves that she is quite competent at creating an inclusive galaxy built on the blueprints of a popular sci-fi franchise.

Vows of Empire neatly wraps up the Bloodright Trilogy, providing satisfying endings for its trio, yet it gets lost in unintriguing political intrigue. The problems laid out in Bonds of Brass aren't necessarily solved by the end of the trilogy, though one might argue that was intentional. Three clever kids aren't going to be able to solve a galaxy of problems necessarily, but at least they all get their own happily ever after.

Overall, the Bloodright Trilogy was worth every second of reading it, even if the final act didn't pack the punch I had hoped it would.

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Image Credit: Del Rey Books. 

Maggie Lovitt is a writer at Wealth of Geeks where she covers her favorite topics: Star Wars and pop culture nerdery.

In her free time, she is also a novelist, screenwriter, actor, and member of the Screen Actors Guild.