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Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: The Empyrean by Katherine Franklin

The At Boundary’s Edge team has narrowed our original allocation down from 28 books to 7 “Quarterfinalists”, all of which we are now reading in full and scoring out of 10 points. The top three books will move forward as semifinalists. As always, this is my own review and reflects only my own individual opinion and score, not that of the team

As one additional note here, the first round is now complete! We chose to read seven full books and you’ve seen my reviews for each of those.  Soon there will be semifinalist announcements from the competition and I’ll know which six books we are reading next!


Alright everyone, my last “quarterfinalist” review is for a space opera called The Empyrean! Let’s take a quick look at the book first and then I’ll share my thoughts.

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: The Empyrean
  • Series: Galaxy of Exiles #1
  • Author: Katherine Franklin
  • Release: Self pub, 2022
  • Length: 478 pages (Paperback length)
  • SPSFC Rating: 5.5/10
Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Emotion is a weapon. Harnessing its power could destroy worlds.

Palia’s emotions are in turmoil. After watching her son succumb to Empyrean fire, she barely escapes the same fate. Guilt ridden and alone, she will not stop until his killer is brought to justice.

The Protectorate forbids Ferrash to have emotions. That suits him, since he cannot avoid the people who control the Empyrean. Making this sacrifice prevents them from hijacking his feelings and using them as a weapon against him.

When Ferrash spots Palia’s ship venting atmosphere, he is forced to save her. Having an enemy from the Hegemony on board could see him accused of treason. But when the Empyrean reveals its potential as a destroyer of worlds and Palia’s link to it, Ferrash knows he can’t let her leave.

With billions at risk of succumbing to the Empyrean weapon, can the enemies join forces and prevent the same fate that killed Palia’s son?

My thoughts:

I first want to add the disclaimer that I purchased the audiobook (I can only stare at an e reader for so long). I physically read the first 150 pages in order to judge technical presentation, editing, etc.  The fact that I listened to the rest is not affecting my score nor am I going to comment on the experience, other than that it was a decent production and James Alper seems like a solid narrator.

So, about the book! I liked the overall idea quite a bit.  The story opens with a planetary explosion and utter devastation, vivid imagery, and it was enough to snag my attention from the get go.

Broadly, I can appreciate the plot regarding interstellar weapons potential and the fact that emotion could be harvested as a source of power, magic, fire. The Empyrean is full of interesting concepts.

It’s also got a few likeable characters and, my favorite part, a hilarious but all too brief episode with a rather large animal companion.

Where this story ended up falling flat for me was in execution.  There were some big, overarching mysteries hinted at throughout, and the thing is that for an author to hold onto those mysteries and just keep dropping hints, the reward has to be worth it.  I really truly hate to say that the “answers” fell flat for me and that the entire final resolution was a bit of a weak setup for the next book in the series.  Many characters and events appeared and vanished throughout without the page time they needed to land an impact.

While individually I liked Palia and Bek, Farrash felt pretty out there. The romance felt more like a proximity attraction without much to ground it on, so the … Uh … Pinnacle of Action scene didn’t land either. The concept did, I get what the author was going for, I just couldn’t see it.

I’m smacking myself because this sounds harsher than I mean it to.  For editing and presentation this is one of our stronger books, and if I had spent a tiny bit less time feeling lost I would have enjoyed it much more overall.  It’s a great plot that just got lost in the execution.

(Plus, I’m one of those blind-ish people who endlessly appreciate books that are turned into audio and made affordable).

TLDR: Overall – The Empyrean held a great idea and a lot of wonderful imagery, but overall it didn’t hit home for me.  I’m rating 5.5/10 for SPSFC purposes and would recommend for fans of space operas with broad scopes!


Thanks for checking out my book review of The Empyrean by Katherine Franklin! I was provided a free digital copy for judging purposes, although I purchased the audiobook on my own to help me finish our books (and save my eyes) within the allotted time frame. As always, all opinions are my own 🚀

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