Empress of The World

Posted February 12, 2012 by Tara in Challenges /// 5 Comments

I like that this cover is gender-neutral. It might inspire someone to pick it up who wouldn't typically reach for GLBT romance.

Empress of the World
by Sara Ryan
Library copy from Follett
[#14 in my 75 book challenge]

This is a lesbian love story.

The story here is classic girl-meets-girl. The setting is the Siegel Institute Summer Program for Gifted Youth, housed on a college campus. Nicola Lancaster is a theater techie studying archeology, and she meets a fun group of kids who instantly become her summer pals: computer chick Katrina, beautiful Battle, music-obsessed Kevin, and sweet Isaac. Like nerd kids do when then finally find themselves with their own kind, this quintet start developing feelings for each other. But Nicola finds that her feelings are for Battle.

I really, really want to like lesbian love stories. No, I take that back. I really, really want to LOVE lesbian love stories. Instead, I end up just liking them. Lesbian love stories are eternally in my friend zone. Unfortunately, Empress of the World ended up in the friend zone, too. Don’t get me wrong — friends are great! More friends are even better! But I’m still searching for that great romance that works as both a great read AND a great lesbian love story.

Where this one fell short was in the characters. I never got attached to Nicola as narrator, and I never got attached to Battle as a love interest. I kept comparing the characters to the kids from Anna and the French Kiss, and the characters in that story were far more developed. I wish Ryan had put a little more character development into the story so that the actual plot would make sense. I had trouble understanding Nicola’s motives and Battle’s reactions and why they even fell for each other in the first place. Ditto for the secondary characters of Katrina, Isaac, and Kevin. Normally I complain about books being too unnecessarily long, but this one was unnecessarily short.

Final Grade:   C    Here’s a book that solidly earned a C, and I quickly assigned it the grade with no waffling. A C is a good grade. Average. But I wasn’t blow away. It’s a quiet, sweet little book that would be worth reading. While I won’t run out and buy a copy, I’m glad I read it. It is  middle school appropriate (I’m pretty sure these girls were having sex, but it’s only alluded to and an “innocent” kid would probably not catch on to that), so I would recommend it to kids that seem to have an interest in lesbian literature or romances.


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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5 responses to “Empress of The World

  1. Haha, I love your description of your relationship with lesbian love stories as being what I term ‘terminal best-friend syndrome’. It caused me to wrack my brain for lesbian love stories that I loved, and I have to say, I’m with ya. I’ve really liked some, but haven’t totally fallen. I think my favorite were a/k/a and Written on the Body (which, because you don’t know the gender involved could be either a guy/girl girl/girl love story).

  2. Miss Anderson, you would have some difficulties being this outspoken about wanting to love lesbian love stories in NW Alabama, unfortunately. I enjoyed reading your review of these gifted kids at camp. Both of my children were always in the gifted track of everything in and out of school. They are both contented heterosexuals, so were not called upon to deal with the challenges your characters may have experienced in their growing attachment for each other. I am also pleased to say both my children are very compassionat and supportive of those with gender preferences different than their own. They were called upon to even physically defend some “different” friends when in school and did so with no hesitation. I am a very proud mom!

  3. I agree about the characters, they never really got me invested in the story. Have you read Ash by Malinda Lo? It is one of my favorite with Lesbian/bi women, mostly because it is a retelling of Cinderella, so the relationship is not the most important part of the story. I have a review on my blog: http://francesandlynne.wordpress.com/ash/

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