Review: “Lucky Empire,” Joshua James

Pros: Pacing; characters; action; worldbuilding
Cons: The Empire’s alien tech built up awfully fast
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

In Joshua James’s Lucky Empire: Lucky’s Marines | Book Three we pick up again after the events of Lucky Universe and Lucky Legacy. Lucky and his compatriots–Malby, Jiang, and April–are on the run from the Empire they’ve fought so hard to serve. Everyone thinks they’re responsible for killing the Emperor, and every marine worth his salt wants to be the one to bring them down. Lucky, his marines, and their Inquisitor companion are hoping to use their new alien friends to stop the Da’hune from blowing up Old Earth along with billions of humans. Some of the Empire’s enemies have reached out to them to offer some sort of help, but can Lucky trust that aid? Unfortunately, the only plan that April and Lucky can come up with involves a definite suicide mission. And while Lucky and April may not feel they have much left to live for, Jiang and Malby beg to differ!

The Empire’s alien tech level managed to build up in the background to a difficult-to-believe level. The number of ships that have been built, soldiers experimented on, weapons deployed… it’s just hard to understand why none of Lucky’s marines had ever seen a trace of it all before the events of Lucky Universe. It’s the only part of the world-building that doesn’t quite hold up for me. Other than that, the universe is great. The small glimpses we get of several alien races are intriguing and unusual. The Frontier Marines are fantastic, with lots of personality both individually and as a whole. I love Lucky and his crew, and April becomes a little bit easier to like this time.

As has been the case since book one, the pacing and action are fantastic. Lucky Empire is relentlessly fast-paced, with lulls just long enough to let you catch your breath without ever getting boring. Ship combat, ground combat, hand-to-hand, shootouts… all of these things are handled with skill and adrenaline-fueled energy. There’s a ton of variety, and lots of half-baked plans that tend to go to Hell as soon as they get rolling. Another new person joins the intrepid group: Hector, a disgraced former marine who’s been leading a life of crime. He’s a fun new character with an interesting background.

All in all I’m really glad I discovered this series (thanks to Kindle Unlimited). I love military SF, but it can be hard to find really good military SF.

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