Book review: Last of Her Name by Jessica Khoury

Hardcover, 400 pages


Sixteen years ago, rebellion swept the galaxy known as the Belt of Jewels. Every member of the royal family was murdered–down to their youngest child, Princess Anya–and the Union government rose in its place. But Stacia doesn’t think much about politics. She spends her days half-wild, rambling her father’s vineyard with her closest friends, Clio and Pol.

That all changes the day a Union ship appears in town, carrying the leader of the Belt himself, the Direktor Eminent. The Direktor claims that Princess Anya is alive, and that Stacia’s sleepy village is a den of empire loyalists, intent on hiding her. When Stacia is identified as the lost princess, her provincial home explodes into a nightmare.

Pol smuggles her away to a hidden escape ship in the chaos, leaving Clio in the hands of the Union. With everything she knows threading away into stars, Stacia sets her heart on a single mission. She will find and rescue Clio, even with the whole galaxy on her trail.

My rating: ⭐

DNF at about 30%. I am ready for some rant!

“It’s probably just some rich Alexandrian tourist with nothing better to do than slum around the outer systems.”
“Yeah.” Clio gives a wistful sigh. “Maybe a handsome, rich Alexandrian tourist, with a troubled past and a broody air and a heart yearning for love.”

Basically this is what this book turned out to be: a boring cliched retelling for bookish tourists, but in this case, I felt myself a duped with a promise of space Anastacia retelling tourist.

First of all, let me start from the easy stuff like special snowflake syndrome and childhood friend turned lover. Our special Stacia finds out she is the last living child of the deceased Emperor, and rebel forces want her to become their leader. And very predictably our special snowflake underlines her specialness by proclaiming she doesn’t want to be special. Gasp! Multiple eyeroll follows her proclamation. Billions of people dream to be special and you say you don’t? So young and already so cynical.

Then the romance part is just something. There’s this nice guy, who they were friends with from young age. He is almost a brother to her. And her best girlfriend has hots on him. And then our special snowflake starts having hots on him as well. Gasp! Phew, that’s distasteful. He turns out so nice and cute and she catches her breath… Major eyeroll.

Something warm and strange spreads through me as I look at Pol, standing there with his hair wild around his horns and his foot still pressing an unconscious knight to the ground. I realize—with a shock—that it’s a feeling of awe.

However, these are not my main issues with this book: the foreshadowing of the real Russian history in the early 20th century is. You know, nobody likes demonization of their country’s history. I personally find it offensive, though I don’t like to throw the word ‘offensive’ at anyone, sometimes circumstances force my hand. But I am so tired of cliches and unchecked facts!

Once more with feeling, authors: we don’t have female name Ilya in Russia, it’s a purely male name! It’s the same as if Americans named their girls Stan or Peter or Chuck. Purely male names, that it. Why on earth do we have a girl named Ilya in this book?! *facepalm*

Then, when an author creates their own world and makes an ultimate villain one-dimensional tyrant it’s okay because it’s a fictional world. But when an author indirectly masks real names and events by the means of putting everything under the same demonic one-dimensional villain cover – excuse me I will fight tooth and nail with them. I do not like unchecked historical facts.

I hated the Union. Under your family’s rule, the aeyla were safe. We were equal. But now, we’re not allowed into universities or to take high-security jobs.

As we have established before we are dealing with foreshadowing of real events, and it’s obvious what time period and Union are mentioned in that quote. It’s after-Revolutionary Russia in the first half of the 20th century and The Union is the Soviet Union. Now, I know that the Soviet Union is often frowned upon and looked at as something demonic, which is absolute bullshit, but who cares, right? Definitely not Jessica Khoury. The 20th century was messy for Russia: War, Revolution, Civil War – you name it. A lot of terrible things had happened. But let’s look at the facts: education. How many erudite people were there in Russia during the Imperial Rule? 27% of working, body-abled people were able to read and write in 1897. It’s an extremely low rate. It shows how little really Tsar and the Emperor cared about people. Aristocrats were living separate lives, not caring about the common folk. And do you know how many erudite people there were after the revolution? In 1926 – 56,6 %, and by 1979 – 99,8 %. Illiteracy was completely erased. So who the fuck is not allowed to universities, you are saying?

Next, the mentioning of Red Nights or how the author calls them Vityaze.

I think of all the war films I’ve seen in school, of the revolution when the Red Knights stormed cities and executed everyone who resisted. And the film we’ve all seen but never talk about: the murder of the imperial family—of Emperor Pyotr Leonov, his wife, all their little children—recorded and spread throughout the remains of the Alexandrian Empire, now the Galactic Union.

First of all, vityaze – correctly vityaz in singular form – is a person similar to a Viking, and they existed in ancient Slavic culture, way back in time. They have no relation to Russia in the 20th century. That it. Then we have Red Knights, who are obviously Communists, and the murder of Emperor Nikolai II and his family. Granted, the assassination of the whole Imperial family was terrible, but all terrible things have roots. Common people didn’t particularly love the Emperor (see the above reasons), and when the revolution finally struck there were many recruits who wished to kill the Emperor. Actually, it’s still debatable who actually pulled the trigger, but nevertheless, this monstrous deed will be forever red stain on Russian history. To call all and everyone monsters for that is not ethical, at least, and, at the most, it’s the same as calling all Americans monsters for the genocide of Native Americans.

To make myself loud and clear, I am okay with authors creating new worlds and empires and tyrants (one-dimensional, mind you!), but, please, stop using unchecked facts and cliches to write your stories. People read books and then they see real references and think this is actually how it was. Poor oppressed Russian people, bring monarchy back, so they could live happily ever after! No fucking way!

I can’t say how far or how good/bad the story progressed as I dropped it at a pretty early stage, but, honestly, do you want to read another special snowflake book with a nice cardboard boyfriend? If you want space adventures and light funny read, better read Starflight, which also has a mechanic heroine, but a likeable one who doesn’t suffer from the specialness mania.

Not recommended!

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