Review – A Hero for the Empire (The Dragon’s Bidding #1) by Christina Westcott

A Hero for the Empire cover image

Publisher: Samhain
Publish Date: 7 Oct
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher

Commander Kimber FitzWarren is running on borrowed time. The cybernetic augmentations that give her superhuman strength and speed have also shortened her life. The success of her next mission is imperative, not only to save her Empire, but because this operation could be her last.

She and a cabal of other idealistic officers are plotting to topple the corrupt Imperial government. The key to placing missing military legend Arianne Ransahov on the throne lies with the one man who can find her, mercenary Wolf Youngblood.

Having just survived an Imperial assassination attempt, Wolf is understandably on edge when Fitz shows up in his bedroom at 0-dark-30. Except she isn’t there to kill him, but to plead for his help. Help he’s reluctant to give—until another assassin pushes the issue.

Pursued by Imperial forces, left with no one to depend on but each other, a bond begins to form that even their secrets can’t destroy. But before they can explore what’s left of their future, they have to survive the mission.

Warning: Space is no place to go it alone. We recommend taking along a telepathic cat, an immortal mercenary, and a cybernetically augmented Imperial SpecOps agent. You never know what kind of trouble you’ll run into…
This blurb came from Goodreads.

I was really excited when I read this blurb because it talked about a strong female lead, who happened to have cyber augmentations, a mercenary, another strong female, space, and the title contained the word dragon. While I ended up finding A Hero for the Empire both interesting and intriguing it didn’t quite live up to my hopes for a couple of reasons but I really want to know what is going to happen next.

Kimber is dedicated to the Empire. It took her out of the streets and gave her the tools to live a successful life. Sure her augmentations also came with a reduced life expectancy but it was better than scrabbling for a living and dying way too young. Sadly during her time as a SpecOps agent she realized loyalty to the Empire wasn’t necessarily the same thing as loyalty to the Emperor and sometimes a regime change was needed. She was tough, smart, adaptable but a bit too dependent on her augmentations and had a sense of physical superiority over those she deemed unaugmented. I really liked that aspect because it meant she wasn’t the perfect person but one who could and did make mistakes.

Wolf had a lot of secrets and was not pleased with his recent visitors. One attempted but failed to kill him and the other was trying to drag him back into the mess he left far too many years ago. Then he realized the assassins weren’t going to leave him alone despite his mercenary group remaining neutral. Wolf’s secrets made him too much of a potential enemy for the Emperor to continue to ignore his presence, especially once he decided to expand his control. Wolf was very good at what he did but also suffered from overconfidence due to the effects of his particular augmentations.

I mostly enjoyed Kimber and Wolf’s interaction but they spent a large part of the story trying to leave each other behind in “safety” or arguing over who was in charge. When they were working together they could accomplish a lot but they weren’t as productive as either should have been. Sadly I wasn’t as fond of Kimber’s ship as I wanted given how seemed partially sentient. I had the impression the ship was fully capable of free thought and action but only exercised them to thwart Wolf regardless of the potential consequences. And those consequences certainly happened. I did love the flawed, dedicated and so loveable telepathic cat. I think the cat really helped Kimber and Wolf learn to trust each other and his insistence on never leaving anyone behind was also a good lesson for them.

Westcott packed a lot of activity into her world almost too much at times. It seemed like both Kimber and Wolf’s organizations suffered from a traitor because assassins and Imperial fleets showed up to various locations when they should have been elsewhere. Then there was everything Kimber discovered after reaching the last known location of the missing military hero. I am not going to mention the specifics because they are spoilers but it seemed a bit much and I didn’t always understand or see the motivation or reason for some of the events.

The last main reason why A Hero for the Empire didn’t work as nicely for me as I wanted is I kept comparing it to another set of stories I really enjoyed. This was just similar enough for me to keep mentally comparing and different enough (thankfully) for things to not add up. However, I was unable to completely separate them and I found this execution lacking but not to the extent that I was ever tempted to stop reading or start skimming.

Overall, this was a slightly rough introduction to a rather complex universe with some interesting rather flawed characters. A Hero for the Empire ends with things on the crux of change and the knowledge this particular change won’t be easy. I am rather curious to find out how things will go for the Empire. I also want to watch Kimber and Wolf work through Kimber’s new position and her potentially new lease on life. I am hoping the next installment is a bit smoother and evenly paced.

I give A Hero for the Empire a B-/C+

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