The Hidden World by Melinda Snodgrass
Stop right there and don’t read past this paragraph if you haven’t yet read The High Ground and In Evil Times, the first two books in Melinda Snodgrass’s IMPERIALS saga. The Hidden World (2018) is book three (of five total, I think) and my review can’t help but contain spoilers for the previous books.
Fourteen years have passed since we left Tracy and Mercedes at the end of In Evil Times. Tracy, framed, disgraced, and now out of the service, has changed his name and turned smuggler. He captains a ship with several aliens on his crew. He hasn’t been able to go home to see his ailing father in 12 years, so, of course, he’s disillusioned with the empire.
Mercedes is still heir to the imperial throne. Her relationship with her consort Boho has degenerated due to her inability to produce a child. Her duties as heir keep her busy dealing with several potentially disastrous situations. First is that she gets a tip that rich families are buying positions for their kids at her alma mater, the military academy called The High Ground. This illegal activity, which may have been instigated by people close to her, probably explains why the newest military officers are performing so poorly against the empire’s enemies. Yes, there’s a war going on, which Mercedes is also involved in. And, then there’s the coup attempt.
When Tracy and Mercedes’ paths unexpectedly cross, sparks (of all sorts) fly and their encounter sets up a situation that, I suspect, will have huge ramifications for the empire.
The Hidden World was my favorite book so far in Melinda Snodgrass’ IMPERIALS saga. It’s got its issues — some bad dialogue at the beginning, ship maneuvers that probably defy the laws of physics (common in space opera), and the unlikeliness of their imperial society (something I keep mentioning and that even Boho, at the end of the novel, admits is unsustainable). But the story moves fast, is exciting, there are some great twists, and both Tracy and Mercedes are better developed and more likable in this third novel.
I’m looking forward to the fourth book. I have no idea when we should be expecting it, though. I’ll be reading in audio format. Nicole Poole is doing a very nice job with the narration of Tantor Audio’s editions of the IMPERIALS saga.