Empress of the world


Empress of the world – Sara Ryan.

I keep wanting to call this empress of the sun… Is that a thing? 

This has been on my to read list for a while, mostly, I admit, for the cover, I just thought it looked really pretty… Anyway, it’s the story of Nicola Lancaster (better known as Nic) who is spending her summer at the Siegel Institute, which is like a camp for smart kids where she and the other gifted teenagers spend the whole summer doing additional classes. She’s there to do archaeology because she’s in two minds about studying it at college and this little fact is a bit of a sub plot into her characteristics and her interests. She soon makes friends with Katrina (computer girl), Isaac (nice guy who’s sort of into Katrina and sort of not), Kevin (composer)  and Battle, a beautiful blonde dancer.  Battle is a girl by the way. Yeah, I know, strange name. That’s a thing in the book too. In fact, when we first meet her she’s described as beautiful hair girl, and then later beautiful eye girl. Nic and Battle become friends and then, more than friends. As the blurb says: what do you do when you think you’re attracted to guys, and then you meet a girl who steals your heart?

To be honest, I don’t know what to make of this. I wanted to love it so much but there were elements that were just a little bittersweet. There was a lot of dialogue that just didn’t work for me, that sounded clunky and out of place when coming from a teenager. But that might be that I’m British and the characters are not. It might be a little bit lost in translation. The Battle/Nic relationship was very sweet and was overflowing with warmth and adorableness that had a lot of potential which left me like this for a lot of the book:


but it just… meh.


It just didn’t go anywhere. It was very angsty and the characters were all realistic which I liked but they were also a little bit shallow, especially Battle. There were moments when I just wanted to strangle her for being so one dimensional. She has this thing where she doesn’t like talking because she says “words don’t work.” Being a big wordnerd I kind of find this a hard concept to get my head around.  Other than that though, it was enjoyable enough and I did rather like Nic’s narration.

The whole relationship between the two moves a bit too fast for me to be entirely comfortable with. The entire thing lasts about two weeks out of the summer that they spend together and I’m not sure that you really could have that much heartbreak, intimacy and adultery in just two weeks. Or maybe that’s just me…. I’m clearly heartless.
Speaking of their relationship, *SPOILER ALERT*


I have no idea what Nic did to upset Battle or why Battle thought just getting with Kevin was a good idea. A little bit of me is under the impression that for Battle, the relationship was just a way to rebel against her parents that then progressed into her having actual romantic feelings for Nic. Also, neither of them communicated, like at all.  The ending was a bit unsatisfactory for me too, I don’t think the story is quite long enough to really do their relationship and the summer they spend together much justice.

Having said that: yaaaaaay! Bisexuals!

I rarely come across novels where the protagonist is bisexual. I read books where they fall for someone of the same gender and then realise that they’re in fact gay and the story comes out of their own coming to terms with this. Then of course there are the Magnus Banes and the Dorian Greys. And then there’s this. I really liked that when Nic started to realise that she had feelings for Battle she thought back to a girl she had liked previously and  a boy that she had liked previously, that although she disliked being labelled,  that she saw bisexuality as a viable option. Which is nice. There appears to be so few of us in literature (at least in books that I’m reading).

Anyway, I thought this was good and I liked it a lot. So, yeah. Nice book to finish the year with.

3 thoughts on “Empress of the world”

  1. I know what you mean about bisexuals in ya lit, and I think it’s just reflecting society’s feelings about the subject — society wants people to pick, and for things to be decided. It’s not that simple, people! Especially when you’re 16 and you’re away at nerd camp for two weeks. Geeze. So yes, I agree with everything you said about this book! So much LGBT lit in general is meh.

    Oh, and I looked up Sara Ryan — she’s bisexual, and married to a man. Wonder if any of the story was inspired by her own experiences?

    1. I find that about LGBT fiction too. I always like David Levithan but there is only so many times I can read Boy meets Boy before I start to wish there were a version about girls or some kind of bisexual visibility.
      I can understand why writers tend to pick one or the other though, it makes writing a story much easier and I’ve been guilty of it myself but its still endlessly frustrating!

      That’s interesting about Sara Ryan though, I’d feel very sorry for her if this book were based on her real life experiences, I’d hate to come across someone like Battle!

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