Last of Her Name, by Jessica Khoury

Last of Her Name, by Jessica Khoury, is a an excellent sci fi adventure for any fans of the fall of the Romanovs and the possibility that Anastasia survived, and a good one simply for those who enjoy sci-fi adventure featuring strong female leads!

Stasia has spent her sixteen years roaming her father's vineyard with her dear friends Pol and Clio on a peaceful planet, one of a group known as the Belt of Jewels.  These planets were settled by humanity eons ago, and each went its own way until they were united through the communicative power of prisms and the family of scientists who discovered that power and became Emperors.   But sixteen years ago, the ruling family was overthrown, and now the planets are  held in the tight fist of  the Direktor Eminent and his Union henchmen.

When a union ship unexpectedly lands in Stasia's home town, on a mission to find the one daughter of the last emperor who might have survived, her life is upended.  The Direktor himself has come to stamp out a suspected Loyalist  insurgency and find the missing girl...and Stasia is that girl.  Pol, himself a Loyalist unbeknownst to her helps her escape on a ship the rebels have hidden, to take her to the Loyalist headquarters.  But Clio is left behind, along with her parents, and Clio in particular pulls at Stasia's heart.  That loyalty is more important than the struggle between the two warring factions, and she'll do whatever it take to save her friend.

That's the set up for a wild adventure, taking Stasia and Pol to many strange world, pitting them against many enemies, with new friends, and traitors, along the way.  Stasia must claim her difficult destiny if she is to save not just Clio, but the whole planetary confederacy, which depends on the mysterious prisms for which she is the only remaining point of access.

Stasia is not just a vessel for the larger plot, in large part because she doesn't want to be.  She doesn't want power, just her handy tool belt and things to fix, and her best friends, and this was perfectly believable.  The fervency of her need to save Clio struck me as excessive, but this passed as the story deepened in complexity (so if that bothers you to, don't let it stop you!).

The political conflict was a clear reimagining of the fall of the tsars and the rise of the Soviet Union, and I found it interesting and convincing.  Neither side of the struggle was clearly the "good guys."  The interplanetary travel and prism technology was a layer of sci-fi goodness that gave the story satisfying crunch (or perhaps the chocolate coating that gave a layer of tastiness.  Sorry.  I'm now thinking of kit kats, which has nothing to do with the book....).  

In any event, though I was doubtful for the first quarter or so because of not being intrinsically interested in more stories of lost princesses coming to power, which is where I thought this was going, it turned out to be not where this was going at all, and I liked it more and more as I read. It kind of reminded me of 1980s sci fi/fantasy--the sort of books I grew up on, and possibly explains why after reading this I reread Anne McCafrey's Crystal Singer (though the two books and their heroines are very different....). So yeah, I think teenaged me would have enjoyed this one lots.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

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