The world has advanced descended into tyranny. Bolstered up by rigged elections and a police force, the Watch, also known as Reds, has become a world divided into the haves and the have-nots. Damian has made a living in Low Side by being an assassin for the Empire. It’s a dangerous line to be walking between working for, and being hunted by, Reds.
Life has a way of being complicated. And, just when you think you are riding the wave in the gutter, everything falls through the grate.
Empire of Light by Alex Harrow is a hard hitting sci-fi, dystopian, fantasy action thriller. In a gritty world where the Empire covers up the darkness with the light of the sun. Damian is living in Low Side making a living the best way he knows how.
Damian is caught on the edge of two sides of a very thin coin. Hired to take out an “enemy of the state” he finds himself on the flip side where he now is being blackmailed to assassinate his previous employer, the commander of the Watch. What’s a guy supposed to do?
Both sides have the goods on him. Or, more importantly on Aris, the guy he loves. What wouldn’t he do to protect Aris? Would he even attempt assassinating the President?
Caught in the middle Damian finds there are more sides than the lovers’ triangles he’s involved with. He’s riding above the spinning dice, not knowing if he is going to win or crap out.
Empire of Light is told in the first person from Damian’s perspective. He is a hired gun who has grown up in a world where poverty is rampant along with the other vices associated with it. His language reflects that point of view. He tells it like he sees it. And he doesn’t see a pretty place.
Alex Harrow made their hero, Damian, queer. And, Damian is really no different than other thriller heroes I’ve read in other stories. He has his loves, his hatreds, his dreams, and his nightmares. The only difference between Empire of Light and most other action thrillers is who Damian loves.
The pacing of Empire of Light is hard hitting like the story. I read quickly through the book looking forward to the next scene. I wasn’t moving through the pages because each chapter left on a cliffhanger, but because the story was compelling and I wanted to know more about the characters and what was happening.
Empire of Light is ride through the highs and the lows of living and surviving in a world where life and death are simply a matter of the value you bring to the powers that be.
Alex Harrow tells a great story with the twists and turns of a solid action thriller. Like most action thrillers, there is death in various forms, vice, language, and sex all told in the detail of someone who grew up in the middle of it all and describing how they understand it—in its raw form.
Empire of Light is a strong read. It has a story with a lot of undercurrent that has the potential of making the reader uncomfortable. But the story is worth the read.
Being told in the first person there is a strong understanding of Damian. The point-of view never broke, but I wanted more about the other characters. The bits and pieces of their backstories left me with questions that will probably be answered in the upcoming sequel(s).
Empire of Light is book one of the Voyance series. I look forward to see where Alex takes their characters in this future world.
I give Empire of Light 4 out of 5.
You can find Empire of Light on Amazon (link).
About the Author (from the book)
Alex Harrow is a genderqueer, pansexual, and demisexual author of queer science fiction and fantasy. Alex's pronouns are they/them. When not writing queerness with a chance of explosions, Alex is a high school English teacher, waging epic battles against comma splices, misused apostrophes, and anyone under the delusion the singular they is grammatically incorrect.
A German immigrant, Alex has always been drawn to language and stories. They began to write when they realized the best guarantee to see more books with queer characters was to create them. Alex cares deeply about social justice and wants to see diverse characters, including LGBTQ+ protagonists, in more than the stereotypical coming out story.
Alex currently lives in Utah with their equally geeky wife, outnumbered by three adorable feline overlords, and what could not possibly be too many books.