Empire of Dust

Written by Eleanor Herman
Review by Xina Marie Uhl

In the second book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series, sixteen-year-old Alexander is a long way from sweeping across the east to earn his appellation, “The Great.” In fact, he’s scarcely the central character in this sprawling, crammed-full-of-characters historical fantasy.

War is brewing in Macedon, and a cast of disparate players populate the pages: Hephaestion, Alexander’s close friend, and Katerina, Alexander’s lost twin, vie with warrior Jacob, sorcery-protected princess Cynane, and Persian princess Zofia. But wait! That’s not all. There’s Alexander’s scheming mother Olympias, the Persian king Darius, the famous scholar Aristotle, and so on. The sheer number of characters gets to be too much. Their storylines are also overly ambitious. An example is Zofia, introduced in Chapter 5. In this brief chapter we find out that she’s a captive who’s really a princess who is in love with one man, escaping marriage to another, and the property of a third, with whom there is a romantic spark. And, oh, she ran away from home and got a family member killed and happens to be pregnant, too. Frankly, it’s all a bit exhausting. Zofia is just one example of many.

A good third of the book includes lots of back story from the previous book. Herman is a skilled wordsmith, who writes beautiful prose with vivid descriptions and evocative scenes. The story itself is a quickly paced mélange of illicit lovemaking, budding romance, and unrequited love. The history is window dressing only—an inspiration for a skillfully constructed fantasy world that is rich with atmosphere and magic. If Young Adult fiction is your thing, you won’t be disappointed, but if you want some real history with your fiction, look elsewhere.