Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliot
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication date: 01 October 2020
Genre: Science fiction
Page count: 528 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I was sent a digital review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review.
I’ll be honest, “gender-swapped Alexander the Great retelling set in space” was all I needed to know about Unconquerable Sun when it originally crossed my path — it immediately got added to the “most anticipated books of the year” list. Having only read, but absolutely adored, one book by Kate Elliott before, I knew she’d be able to pull of a book with such an epic scope.
It has been eight centuries since the beacon system failed, sundering the heavens. Rising from the ashes of the collapse, cultures have fought, system-by-system, for control of the few remaining beacons. The Republic of Chaonia is one such polity. Surrounded by the Yele League and the vast Phene Empire, they have had to fight for their existence. After decades of conflict, Queen-Marshal Eirene has brought the Yele to heel.
Now it is time to deal with the Empire. Princess Sun, daughter and heir, has come of age.
In her first command, she drove a Phene garrison from the beacons of Na Iri – an impressive feat. But growing up in the shadow of her mother – a ruler both revered and feared – has been no easy task. While Sun may imagine that her victorious command will bring further opportunity to prove herself, it will in fact place her on the wrong side of court politics. There are those who would like to see Sun removed as heir, or better yet, dead. To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.
Unconquerable Sun is an ambitious start to an epic new sci-fi series. Filled with action, adventure, political intrigue, backstabbing, shifting allegiances, and an abundance of pop culture references, this book is an absolute thrill to read and was incredibly difficult to put down. Elliott doesn’t hold your hand with the sprawling world building — she instead chooses to throw you straight into the deep end — so it takes a few pages to really dig into the story. Also, I will confess that I don’t know a huge amount about Alexander the Great or the legends that surround him, so I can’t tell you how closely she follows his story. However I was quickly hooked by the wonderful blend of Greek and East Asian inspirations.
There are numerous POVs in this book, however our main two are Princess Sun — our Alexander the Great character — and Persephone Lee — the reluctant daughter of one of the Empire’s core houses who is desperate to escape her family’s conniving. Having multiple points of view was the smartest thing Elliott did for this book — I surprisingly found Sun the most difficult to relate to and sympathise with because she’s all sharp edges with little softness (even her vulnerabilities have spikes). I genuinely don’t think the book would have been as strong with only her perspective. Persephone’s point of view adds a wonderful and extremely sympathetic layer to the story — she’s easily one of my absolute new favourite characters ever. When paired with the POVs of enemy soldiers and allies alike, the shifting perspectives in this book are incredibly well done and add such wonderful dimension to what could have been a flat story.
Unconquerable Sun wasn’t a technically perfect book, it is easily one of best reading experiences I’ve had this year. A truly unputdownable tale, you’ll be just as desperate as me to see what happens next!
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Have you read Unconquerable Sun yet? What did you think? Is it in your TBR? Let me know!