5 reasons Rae Carson’s The Empire of Dreams is a must-read for fantasy lovers

The Empire of Dreams by Rae Carson. HarperCollins
The Empire of Dreams by Rae Carson. HarperCollins /

In her standalone novel, The Empire of Dreams, Rae Carson returns to the world she built in her Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy. Here’s why it’s a must-read.

One of the best things about fantasy and science-fiction series is that, given a vast enough world, authors are free to return to it in new ways. And that’s exactly what Rae Carson has done in her new standalone novel, The Empire of Dreams, which brings readers back to the world she set up in her Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy. And whether you’ve read her previous books or not, The Empire of Dreams is a must-read for fantasy lovers.

Alternating between past and present, the novel tells the story of Red Sparkle Stone, a girl who was once a slave but found her way into the royal family. In fact, Empress Elisa has plans to adopt Red and bring her into the line of succession — that is, until a coup stops that plan in its tracks.

Stopping Red’s adoption is all part of a bigger plot, however. And when Elisa and most of the royal family depart for Orovalle, only Red and Prince Rosario are around to investigate the political manuevering that’s been happening in the palace. This is made even more difficult by Red’s decision to join the Royal Guard — which limits her ability to get around the palace, though it also presents the advantage of bringing the new recruits to their side.

And given that the Royal Guard has been infiltrated, it’s probably the best place Red could have wound up. As she fights to remain in the class of first-year recruits — and sneaks around to uncover the plot against the royal family — Red begins to unravel the mystery at the heart of this story. And it’s a mystery readers won’t want to miss out on.

Here are five reasons fantasy lovers should pick up The Empire of Dreams.

The Writing Is as Magical as the Story

If you’re looking for a fantasy tale with writing that will completely suck you in, The Empire of Dreams is the book for you. Carson’s prose are descriptive enough that readers will find themselves completely immersed in this world, but not so much that the story ever drags.

The Empire of Dreams is well paced, and it’s easy to flip through hundreds of pages without realizing where the time is going. That said, Carson’s writing will make readers feel what the characters are feeling as the story progresses. When Red is betrayed, the reader feels betrayed. And it takes impressive writing skills to truly accomplish that.

It’s Full of Political Intrigue

The Empire of Dreams is a dream come true for readers who enjoy political intrigue, and it presents the politics from a unique perspective. While most stories about coups are told from within the castle — or from the perspective of those overthrowing the royals —  this one looks at the tense atmosphere from the barracks, exploring how the Royal Guard can be infiltrated and manipulated.

This adds an interesting layer to the story while maintaining the palace atmosphere fans of royal fantasies love to fall into. And even readers who have never picked up one of Carson’s books before will find the world building easy enough to follow, quickly piecing together all they’ll need to know about this world in order to follow the drama.

The Characters Are Compelling

Masterful writing and intricate world building would be nothing without a compelling cast of characters to fill the narrative, and, thankfully, The Empire of Dreams delivers on that front. Not only is Red a breath of fresh air when it comes to a protagonist, neither falling into the “chosen-one” trope nor using toxic masculinity to prove her strengths, but her comrades are equally as charming — even if they don’t start out that way.

By the time readers close The Empire of Dreams, they’ll find themselves wanting to see more of Iván, Pedrón, Aldo, and all the rest. (And who knows? Perhaps one day we will.)

There’s Plenty of Action

Anyone who enjoys a good sword fight will have a great time reading the many training sequences throughout The Empire of Dreams. Carson doesn’t hold back when it comes to the recruits learning to hold their own — and while some may find that much focus on training tedious, it makes the story refreshingly believable.

Added to the action that defines the beginning and end of the novel, there are plenty of moments that fans of well-written fight scenes will relish scattered throughout Carson’s latest novel.

The Twists Will Have You Guessing Until the End

As might be expected from a story about unraveling a coup, The Empire of Dreams is full of plot twists, particularly nearing the end of the book. And even if readers manage to guess some of the surprises Carson has in store for them, it’s unlikely they’ll see everything that’s coming. After all, there are a lot of reveals in this one — and they’ll keep even the most attentive reader on their toes.

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The Empire of Dreams is currently available in print, ebook, and audiobook formats.