In The Worker Prince, emperor tyrant Xavilar orders all first-born male slaves killed. One boy gets away – Davi, who is adopted by none other than princess Miri, Xavilar's sister. When Davi finds out that he is the progeny of slaves, and witnesses the slaves' treatment first-hand, he confronts his uncle and lands himself in more trouble than he could have imagined.
The Worker Prince is a story of family, with Davi as an inverted prodigal son. Davi loves his adoptive mother and his uncle, the tyrant emperor, even as his definition of family expands to include his biological parents and cousins. Xavilar makes a great villain in part because he also cares for his family as part of his skewed moral code. The tyrant's soft spot for princess Miri allows her to raise Davi to think for himself, setting events in motion beyond the emperor's control. Part of Davi's journey is his realization that his own moral principals differ greatly from his uncle's, and to a lesser extent from Miri's. The Worker Prince offers the reader many heart-warming scenes that line up characters like dominoes for the action-packed end, which in turn leads into an exciting sequel (The Returning).
The Saga of Davi Rhii series is also a story of war – of a long-brewing conflict that comes to a head when Davi meets the rebels. While Davi's influence as a prince and as a fighter pilot is important, we also see how smart and capable the rebels are, as are the emperor's lackeys who hunt them done. A lot of the rebel's planning and infrastructure is already in the works when Davi shows up, which makes the rebels' ensuing battles feel realistic. Schmidt does an excellent job of weaving realism into The Worker Prince through carefully chosen details that mimic real life conflicts – from mass graves to Xavilar's gradual erosion of the counsel's powers. And where Davi is sometimes a naive, as befits his age, many of the supporting characters are not, and together they make big events possible. Davi's confrontation with the emperor and his interactions with the rebels force the hands of supporting characters like Miri. Of course, emperor Xavilar has a large military with trained officers and many ships at his disposal, so when the rebels launch their attack, soldiers die. But as with many rebellions, there is no turning back once the ship has launched – or in this case, the fighter pilots.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt's Saga of Davi Rii is an engaging space opera about standing up against abuse even if that means defying public opinion and the Emperor himself.
Check out Hugo Nominee Bryan Thomas Schmidt's website to read more about the books he writes and the big-name anthologies he edits: