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Book Review

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Unconquerable Sun (Hardback)


Author: Kate Elliott
Publisher: Head of Zeus
323 pages
RRP: £18.99
ISBN: 978 1 80024 320 0
Publication Date: 01 October 2020

Unconquerable Sun (523 pages) is self-described as, a Gender-swapped Alexander the Great in space, with Sapphic overtones. The book, written by Kate Elliott, is the first in a new series, The Sun Chronicles.

The first point to make is that this is more space fantasy, rather than science fiction. Societies are a reflection of those which have existed on Earth including both martial and political structures. Where aliens exist they do so in a very Star Trek way, that is they may have four arms or armoured skin, but there is little else which is exotic or unusual.

Travel around space is via beacons, analogous to stargates or the portals in the Expanse, allowing instantaneous travel, but only between two fixed points. One point of interest is that the contemporary societies did not make the beacons and have no real way of repairing or replicating them. In the eons which have passed much of the beacon network no longer exists. This has led to the Phene Empire gaining dominance over the surrounding societies on the back of having the most working beacons.

Facing against them and their genetically altered death soldiers, the Gatoi, is the Republic of Chaonia, a republic in name only, as it is overseen by the strong and ruthless hand of the Queen Marshal, mother of the titular character, Sun.

The novel is really in two parts, the first quarter was heavy going. There are a number of POV characters, but I never felt I spent enough time with any of them to care what happened. Elliott has chosen to also change the perspective of each of the characters, which can make reading the story a little jarring as you shift from first to third person.

Past that point, the pace picks up with numerous battles and palace intrigue. This is where the slow start begins to come together after Sun is placed in a position which directly threatens her life. She fights back with a rag-tag assortment of characters, both friends and prior enemies.

I don’t know if this was supposed to be a young adult book, certainly, the Sapphic elements were unremarkable and for the most part down played. The language and how the characters see themselves is very reminiscent of this sub-genre.

There is that old idea that for a story to be good it has to grab you at the first page, unfortunately this fails to do it in the first hundred, or at least it failed for me.


Charles Packer

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