There are almost two parts to this book. First, an invasion of colonised space by an alien species, and humanity fighting back with enormous losses. This is followed by a more fantasy-like setting with a gladiatorial feel which fills the rest of the book. The two styles didn’t lessen the impact of the story at all, and if anything they made it more intriguing.
I loved how Michael Hicks showed us Reza’s life from a very young boy through to a man, and he is my favourite type of hero. He never tries to be heroic, he just does what he can to survive, but without compromising his ideals. Reza’s initial survival was enabled by ultimate sacrifice and incredible courage and from then on, I was hooked. His decisions were wonderfully reasoned and played out, and even after I’d finished the book I kept thinking about it, and what would I have done in his situation.
The Kreelan race provided a puzzle for me, and I think it’s down to Hicks’ clever writing that while you know they are the enemy, you slowly come to realise they are also a deeply connected and spiritual people, with their own strict way of life that is completely alien. Their history and their mystical way of life was brilliantly envisioned and made it really easy to empathise with them, despite their role.
It wasn’t until the end of the book I was reminded that they are in fact, the enemy. And I cried.
The plot was really well laid out, driving us through a series of events that forge Reza into a survivor, from young boy to man, with amazing strength of character and very likeable.
The character of one of the Kreelan warriors was really well conceived. Again, it’s down to excellent writing by Michael R. Hicks that I hated the character at first, but as Reza grew and his perceptions changed, so did mine and I ended up loving her (no names, to avoid spoiling it)!
The Kreelan are a warlike people who are bound together by soul and so deeply steeped in honour, tradition and ceremony that it is stagnating their culture. I thought it was interesting that on the Kreelan planet, there is no evidence of technology nor that the people could be capable of space flight, but it’s a given that they are since they are waging war on humanity. I suspect that will feature more in the next books of this trilogy.
The pace is tricky as it covers a long period of time but I thought Hicks handled the jumps forward well, and I enjoyed the book all the more because I got to see Reza at so many points in his life, and eventually learning who he is now.
The ending didn’t really come as a surprise, you knew the eventual outcome was always a possibility but that didn’t detract at all from its power. Reza’s honour, belief and loyalty made him stand out amongst heroes and it moved me to tears.
In Her Name: Empire is a book that has heart, emotion, sacrifice, and courage and I can’t recommend it highly enough!