In Evil Times by Melinda Snodgrass
In Evil Times (2017) is the second book in Melinda Snodgrass’s IMPERIALS saga. You’ll want to read The High Ground first. (Expect spoilers for that novel in this review.)
At the end of The High Ground we left Tracy (smart low-class scholarship student) in despair when his friend/nearly lover Mercedes (heir to the imperial throne) ditched him for a more suitable (noble) match. Poor Tracy.
After enduring his graduation ceremony and Mercedes and Boho’s wedding, Tracy is assigned to a spaceship at a much lower rank than his higher-class fellow students. As he goes about his duties for his empire, he keeps getting passed up for promotions while being required to engage in some activities whose ethics he questions.
Meanwhile Mercedes is having her own troubles with her position as heir and, personally, with her consort Boho. She needs to prove her worth as a military officer and provide the empire with an heir.
Eventually Tracy and Mercedes’ duties collide in an unsettling way, leading to even more tension between them as well as some nasty legal consequences. When we leave them at the end of In Evil Times, it looks like we might be heading toward war.
Like its predecessor, In Evil Times is fast-paced with lots of action. The story, which spans years, is exciting, but Snodgrass’s world doesn’t feel quite solid and some aspects of the society and the plot just don’t ring true. For example, we’re told that after aliens were discovered, human races no longer mattered to people, yet this same society has very strict class segregation. I find this hard to believe. Also difficult to swallow was Tracy’s experience in the legal system — his failure to try to defend himself and his inability to find anyone to speak on his behalf. Both of our heroes have undergone disappointing personality changes that also don’t feel right. And the use of American slang/expressions that were popular in 2016 (and have already faded away) doesn’t help.
It’s easy to notice the deficits in this series but, in truth, I enjoyed the story and am eager to find out what happens next to Tracy and Mercedes. I’m enjoying the audiobook version produced by Tantor Audio and read by Nicole Poole. The next book is called The Hidden World. I think there will be five books in the IMPERIALS saga.