What a fun, upbeat space opera that despite it’s light tone managed to make me cry!
Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy. Her mother sacrificed everything to bring peace to the quadrant, and her uncle has successfully ruled as emperor for decades. But the last thing Alyssa wants is to follow in their footsteps as the next in line for the throne. Why would she choose to be trapped in a palace when she could be having wild adventures exploring a thousand-and-one planets in her own ship?
But when Alyssa’s uncle becomes gravely ill, his dying wish surprises the entire galaxy. Instead of naming her as his successor, he calls for a crownchase, the first in seven centuries. Representatives from each of the empire’s prime families—including Alyssa—are thrown into a race to find the royal seal, which has been hidden somewhere in the empire. The first to find the seal wins the throne.
Alyssa’s experience as an explorer makes her the favorite to win the crown she never wanted. And though she doesn’t want to be empress, her duty to her uncle compels her to participate in this one last epic adventure. But when the chase turns deadly, it’s clear that more than just the fate of the empire is at stake. Alyssa is on her most important quest yet—and only time will tell if she’ll survive it.
“A deadly competition for the throne will determine more than just the fate of the empire in this riveting duology opener, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games, Aurora Rising, and Three Dark Crowns.”
I received an ARC and reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
Content warnings include: character death, grief, characters get drunk, oppression, corruption; mentions of sex off-page.
Crownchasers is one of what I feel are many SciFi books with a charming-rascal-who-wants-to-avoid-responsibility-at-all-costs-but-has-a-heart-of-gold protagonist, and it took the best parts of this trope and executed it in a super fun, shortwhile and fast-paced way.
Not only does Crownchasers score with the pansexual chaotic good protagonist, it also packs an emotional punch and was so easy to read pages flew by almost without me noticing.
It has short chapters, and switches POVs between protagonist Alyssa’s present and flashbacks, and one antagonist, interspersed with the headlines of galactic news media related to the titular Crownchase.
The setup of the book was well chosen. There isn’t too much worldbuilding, and it’s all pretty straightforward, but it all works together well without being confusing. There are a lot of hints to things going on in the background that will probably come to light and be more relevant in the sequel. It kept the book rounded and feeling alive despite the ostensibly simple structure of the plot.
The Crownchase, meaning the heirs of the prime families following clues to a hidden sigil with the first one finding it being crowned the Empire’s new ruler, sounded a bit ludicrous to me at first, but it makes sense within the confines of the story.
The book wasn’t particularly deep, and the concepts weren’t exactly new, but it still felt fresh and exciting and was fun to read. It surprised me with the emotional engagement I couldn’t help but feel despite the fast-pace of plot in the foreground, moving me to tears more than once.
One detail I particularly loved was the role of media in the Crownchase, and that the prime family heirs all knew each other because they frequently played together as kids, and that they truly were allowed to be kids and have their own lives and pretty normal childhoods despite their high status.
I liked the cast and its casual diversity, but as often is the case for me, I wanted to know more of the side characters.
There was also a subtle romantic subplot, and I liked the dynamic between protagonist and love interest, especially considering the stereotypes of heteronormative media.
Overall a super fun and easy read that plays with common tropes and makes them feel fresh and exciting.