Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: Fall 2022
Buy link: Neon Hemlock
Read an eARC from the publisher
Content warnings: explicit sexual content, murder, body horror, gore
Empire of the Feast is a story of spaceship court intrigue in which a reincarnating emperor staves off an eldritch beast via a sex cult in a perpetual orgy. There’s a betrayal, there’s an army, and a transferal power that subverts genre tropes. Barrett efficiently packs so many compelling story elements into one taut work. If there are more stories coming out of the Stag Empire, I am here for all of them.
An interview with the author will be going up on October 27th, 2022.
It was interesting to be reading this at the same time I’m reading Mervyn Peake because if you’re looking for a quick, dense read with lush prose but also an intense focus on the ritual itself written for twenty-first century sensibilities, this is it. It’s rapturous for the senses and Barrett does not let the reader look away either literally or metaphorically. Queer indulgence and sexuality are the literal center of this small universe. The focus on the spirit as a form of magic and physicality as the impetus and vessel of the ritual itself is particularly effective. Yes, it takes place in space, but the magic is super real, and aesthetic appeals to science fiction anime goths like yours truly.
I really liked Riverson as a narrator. He is at once a visitor and a denizen of the world of the Feast. Though he has none of his memories of his previous emperor lives, he still has decent leadership sensibilities and has no time for anyone’s bullshit. He’s aware of his circumstances and what’s at stake if he fails. I can’t speak more to the character arc because it will be spoilers, but Barrett shows a command of genre expectations in that exploration.
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