On the Precipice

Fiction - Science Fiction
301 Pages
Reviewed on 04/29/2024
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Paul Zietsman for Readers' Favorite

On the Precipice by Brianna MacMahon is a political sci-fi thriller set in Imperium, a paradisiacal world of great success. At the core of this success is the god they worship, Mystia, and the seven Lord Regents, as they are called, who rule and manage Imperium's different divisions. Amid an important election, Levin Liston, Lord Regent of Diplomacy and leader of the Affiliate Party, seeks to ally with another planet, Civitan. Civitan had recently broken free from the stronghold of The Core, a great enemy of Imperium. However, Civitan had been an ally of the Core some decades ago, and millions of Imperials had died in what was known as the Glass War. Not everyone, including some in Levin's close circle, believes that Civitan can be trusted. The stakes are high, trust is gained or lost, and in many cases, deception proves to be the ultimate weapon.

Although On the Precipice is set in a fantasy world, it had me thoroughly glued to the reality of the dynamics of politics. For this novel to succeed, Brianna MacMahon created exceedingly complex characters who, by virtue or vice, roused me with their words and actions. The continuity of each one's character or nature is steadfast, making for authenticity and a hyper-immersive novel. The dialogue is also intriguing, ranging from meaningful conversations to sarcasm and, at times, hilarious wit. I also enjoyed how there was always an air of suspense leading up to major events and how I never knew what to expect next. This novel towers above many others for its exceedingly skillful craftmanship of characters in a world where the weaker will get by but the strong will thrive.

K.C. Finn

On the Precipice is a work of fiction in the science fiction, adventure, and suspense genres. It is best suited to adult readers owing to strong language and sexual references. Penned by author Brianna MacMahon, the story explores Imperium's pivotal electoral cycle, where Imperials must choose between the Expansionist and Affiliate Parties. Keepers, the elite class, wield power, with seven Lord Regents ruling Imperium. Raelynn Mabry, a Keeper graduate, finds herself entangled in the political rivalry between Levin Liston and Cyno Banner, leaders of the Affiliate and Expansionist Parties, respectively. As Liston negotiates an alliance with the seceded Civitan, Raelynn aids him while navigating her newfound role. With alliances forged and futures at stake, Imperium braces for Election Day's decisive outcome.

Author Brianna MacMahon puts a lot of imagination and detail into this truly immersive dive into a politically charged universe teetering on the brink of transformation. I loved the novel’s pacing which slowly introduces us to the web of intricate power dynamics and personal ambitions, and this is set against a detailed and convincing backdrop of societal hierarchy. Raelynn's journey from a recent graduate to a pivotal player in Imperium's political landscape captivated me. Her struggles and triumphs echo the larger themes of loyalty, ambition, and sacrifice. The character portrayal is handled confidently, with strong narrative control and effective speech and thought presentation. The tension between Liston and Banner lent another edge to this narrative, conveying different relationship dynamics and unique ways of speaking that really characterize each individual. Overall, On the Precipice is a thrilling exploration of power and choice in a society on the edge of change, and I would highly recommend it to science fiction enthusiasts everywhere.

Saifunnissa Hassam

Brianna MacMahon’s On the Precipice is a thought-provoking, character-driven science fiction novel set in Imperium on the planet Imperium in the Mystic Arms galaxy. With explicit sexual settings and language, part of the development of the story and its characters, this is recommended for mature readers only. Imperium, once a part of the powerful Core, seceded because of religious persecution. In the Glass War that followed, Imperium defeated the Core, but it cannot ignore potential threats of another invasion. The issue of how to deal with the Core is the focus of an upcoming important general election, which may also result in significant political leadership changes. Government, political, social, and religious leadership is dominated by Keepers. Raelynn Mabry, 23, is a recent Keeper graduate who is an intern for the legendary Keeper Lord Regent Levin Liston, head of the Diplomacy division in the government. As Raelynn begins her new career, she discovers the complexity of how the top Keepers in the Government control and influence Imperium politics, society, and religion. 

I greatly enjoyed reading On the Precipice for its complex characters and outstanding multifaceted worldbuilding of Imperium. I particularly liked how Raelynn’s character development reveals the details of Imperium’s government, the political parties, the top leaders in the government, the social mores, and religious beliefs. Through the vivid details, the settings, and the dialogues, I could imagine Raelynn as a young woman freshly arrived in the Imperial city of New Caelus, her excitement, and gradual maturing as she learns how to handle difficult situations, and meets some of the most powerful and influential Keepers of Imperium. Raelynn’s individual story gained great depth through two particular characters, Levin Liston and Embry Taymor. I liked the individual chapters on the story's major figures, revealing the complexity of connections across Imperium’s society. The love affairs and sexual behavior were expertly interwoven into the plot, as they are integral to the power struggles, ambition, and consequences for the personal and political lives of the characters. I greatly enjoyed how the novel shows diverse characters, ethical and moral complexities, changing times, different attitudes and conflicts across different generations, and women’s struggles to ascend to higher leadership positions. Brianna MacMahon’s novel is a fascinating sci-fi story with incredible characters and world-building.

Jamie Michele

On the Precipice, book one in the science fiction New Caelus series by Brianna MacMahon, is set in the world of Imperium. Graduate and “Keeper” hopeful Raelynn Mabry enters the political arena as an intern to Levin Liston, the Lord Regent of Diplomacy, tasked with forging an alliance between Imperium and Civitan against their common enemy, the Core. However, political discord arises as the Expansionist Party, led by Cyno Banner, advocates for military action against the Core instead of diplomatic negotiations. Raelynn becomes entangled in the power struggle between Liston and Banner, amid the looming Imperium election that promises significant political upheaval. As alliances form and fracture, tensions escalate, setting the stage for a transformative political landscape.

Brianna MacMahon's On the Precipice offers readers a story of masterful world-building and intricate character exploration. Set in a universe rife with political intrigue, the story takes us into the personal lives of a huge cast that drives it through shifting perspectives and alternate storylines. Science fiction tends to be a recycling factory that churns out iterations of the same foundational stories, but MacMahon's social structure, politics, and system are really refreshing. Many of her characters are worthy of their own offshoots, and Raelynn isn't the only most interesting one, which is a testament to MacMahon's skill. The author also shows restraint by deliberately pacing the story into a steady build. Some storylines, subplots, and a few mysteries do get nicely tied up, taking the sting out of a cliffhanger ending while holding the door open for what is to come. Very highly recommended.

Asher Syed

On the Precipice by Brianna MacMahon is set in Imperium, a thriving independent colony split from the Core over religious differences. Governed by seven factions led by Lord Regents, who are Keepers trained in prestigious schools, assisted by Prophates, political power is contested among three parties: Expansionists, Affiliates, and Grounders. Raelynn, a recent graduate and potential future Keeper, finds herself mentored by Levine Liston, the unprecedented Lord Regent of Diplomacy, which does not go well with Cyno Banner, the Expansionist Lord Regent of War and Defense, who suspects Liston's motives, particularly his pursuit of peace talks with the Civitans. Elections are on the horizon and so too are the personal agendas, political ambitions, historical conflicts, and rise or fall of Imperium itself, which sits on the razor-thin edge of change and uncertainty.

On the Precipice is a firecracker of a first entry in the New Caelus series, with Brianna MacMahon nailing it with a brand new and incredibly unique twist to the science fiction and fantasy genres. The world-building is top notch and MacMahon does well in integrating backstory organically, with places like The Hall, and Imperium's war museum, which is both a character setting and a window into Imperium's history and lore through descriptions of artifacts and conversation. Raelynn is the power player, but I actually found Grell to be the most interesting. Her aspirations for leadership within the Church, her efforts to finagle through the political landscape of Imperium, and, to put it mildly, her questionable choices make her feel authentic in the whirlwind of larger societal forces. There is a lot to take in but this is the case in all fascinating speculative fiction. MacMahon makes the time investment worth it, and hopefully the wait for book two as well.