Review: Those Above (The Empty Throne #1) by Daniel Polansky


3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

You know the feeling of excitement when you get a brand, shiny new book – the cover is gorgeous, the plot sounds perfect, and you can’t WAIT to read it. Then you have to wait a little while to fit it into your reading schedule, but you know it will be worth the wait. And then you finally, finally get to read it.

And it breaks your heart just a little bit, because it is utterly disappointing.

Leslie Knope gif

That is what Those Above was to me. I fell in love with the cover (hello Roman inspired fantasy!) and the premise. I eyed that book up a lot, sat on my shelf, waiting patiently to be read whilst I battled with university work. And then I could finally read it, so settled down for a few hours of cosy reading – and found I couldn’t even concentrate on it for one.

Why, Those Above, why?? In the simplest terms, you just weren’t as exciting as I’d expected. By two thirds into the book, I was still waiting for something to actually happen. Yes, it’s the first in a series so there’s lots of world-building to do and lore to set out, but it’s got to draw me in if it wants me to carry on reading the series. I felt no attachment to any character, and not just because of the fact that they were pretty despicable in their own ways (here’s looking at you, cast of A Song of Ice and Fire), but because they felt rather flat. I honestly did not care what would happen to any of them.

I appreciated the Roman and Greek influences and it didn’t even bother me that they were mixed. But the world in which Those Above is set did not feel particularly original. So, you’ve got your warring nations, your shanty-towns, your aristocrats and nobility, even if that nobility is a strange alien (I think?) race. The issue with ‘Those Above’ as rulers is that they weren’t scary. There was maybe one or two scenes that demonstrated their strength, but I never completely got a clear impression of why the people of this world let themselves be enslaved, or how it happened.

In addition, I suppose this book came at a bad time. I’m getting quite bored of fantasy books where the women are second class. Is this historically accurate? No, it’s fantasy. So why are the women always down-trodden and less important in society than the men? Also due to the story pretty much taking place in one city, or certain parts of one city, I got no impression of the rest of the world and as a result it felt very small. I had no idea what sort of influence ‘Those Above’ had on people outside of this city, because I never saw them.

So regrettably, I only want to award this book three stars – a ‘you disappointed me and it makes me sad’ sort of three stars. I have another book of Daniel Polansky’s, and this won’t put me off reading that – but I’m not sure I will continue with this particular series.

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: April 2015


Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells Drawn by Cecilia Gray Those Above Doctor Who: Engines of War Crocodile on the Sandbank


Last month I read a total of six books: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer, Drawn by Cecilia Gray, Those Above by Daniel Polansky, Doctor Who: Engines of War by George Mann and Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters.

I may have read more than last month somehow, but it was a month of ‘eh’ books. These all received two or three stars. The most fun was probably Crocodile on the Sandbank, purely for its portrayal of a Victorian female archaeologist, with ladies fainting left right and centre.


Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge and managed to defeat Kang the Conqueror! Gorilla Grodd is the villain for May, and he looks to be a tough one.
  • I have currently read twenty five books towards my Goodreads goal.


Currently reading:

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
How was April for you?

Top Lists

Anticipated Releases 2015

Anticipated Releases 2015

It’s a new year, and with it comes new books and release dates! 2015 looks like it will be a fantastic year for new releases, and I just wanted to share a few (or maybe more than a few…) that I’m really looking forward to. I’m sure I’ll find plenty more between writing and posting this, and then even more during the course of 2015. I’d also love to hear which new books you’re looking forward to the most.

Shadow Scale The Liar's Key The Skull Throne

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman is the second book in the Seraphina series, the first of which I read last month and really, really enjoyed. Despite not liking Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence as much as I’d hoped, I gave his second series a try and found Prince of Fools much more enjoyable – so I’m looking forward to the sequel, The Liar’s Key. You may have seen me talk about a series called The Demon Cycle, written by Peter V. Brett, a lot – and the fourth book, The Skull Throne is set for release in 2015!

A Darker Shade of Magic Shutter Cannonbridge

I still haven’t managed to get my hands on a copy of Vicious yet so I’ve not sampled Victoria Schwab‘s writing, but A Darker Shade Of Magic sounds amazing nonetheless. I came across Shutter by Courtney Alameda when searching for books to fit the DC vs. Marvel Challenge. It sounds amazing, and reminds me a little of the video game Fatal Frame. I have a copy of Cannonbridge by Jonathan Barnes from Netgalley, and it sounds pretty unique – an infamous 19th century writer who never should have existed, but seems to have influenced the lives of just about everyone.

Those Above No Cover Reawakened

Hodder kindly sent a copy of Those Above by Daniel Polansky to my address in the UK, and I am DEFINITELY taking it back to Leiden with me. It looks like the start of another wonderful epic fantasy series. I may only have read the first book in the series, and will be reading number two soon, but I am still excited for the fifth book in the Mistborn series (which currently has no cover), Shadows Of Self by Brandon Sanderson – although there is no exact date within 2015 as of the current moment. Reawakened by Colleen Houck looks like it could either be really great or absolutely awful… but it’s about Egyptian mythology so yes, I will be reading it!

See How Small A Court of Thorns and Roses The Galaxy Game

Another one that I have from Netgalley, See How Small by Scott Blackwood sounds like it might be along the lines of something like The Lovely Bones. I really should have listed A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J. Maas first, because I am SO EXCITED FOR THIS ONE! I am completely in love with her writing, and I’m ecstatic that she has written another series. And finally, last but not least, The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord looks to be an epic science fiction novel. It’s a standalone, but is set in the same universe as her previous work.

What releases are you looking forward to during 2015?