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The Secret History of Empress M tells two action-packed stories that eventually intersect on the interstellar frontier. The first story concerns a ten-year-old girl named Em who starts out held in isolation from humanity due to her telepathic powers. Her only human contact is with some friends who visit her for tea parties using a technology that allows them to communicate from a distance through mechanical bodies. But Em’s secret location is breached by a mercenary hired to kidnap her, kicking off a star-spanning saga of conspiracy and conflicting agendas. And as you might suspect, a telepath is not so easy to kidnap.

The second interwoven story begins by gathering an interesting set of characters one-by-one to become the first members of The 64, a new police force meant to patrol the politically complex “landscape” of space where many different civilizations coexist—and not always peacefully. A war hero, a detective, a killer, and a futuristic samurai combine forces with a sentient spaceship and gain extra powers by submerging in a “grey goo” of nanobots. Soon, the team crosses the chaotic path of Em and her would-be captors, and the results are anything but predictable.

The Secret History is full of twists and turns made even more complex by the same consciousness-projecting technology Em’s tea-time friends employed, and by various means of exchanging consciousness between two people. You’ll need to pay close attention to follow who is who they appear to be, and who isn’t. But the reward for staying sharp is a one-of-a-kind adventure that will keep you turning pages until the very end.

Author Tony Padegimas has a knack for mining the humor from serious situations and finding a way to make us laugh by juxtaposing characters who all have radically different personalities and perspectives. The novel could easily be marketed as “young adult” science fiction, but I’m almost fifty and thought it was a great read. Tony covers so much ground and deftly juggles so many plot threads and characters that I never knew what was coming next, despite a lifetime of reading and watching science fiction and space opera. And yes, there is a sequel in the works!

Buyer’s Guide: The Kindle ebook edition of The Secret History of Empress M is currently available for $4.99 on Amazon, a bargain price for an epic of its length. If you are more into fantasy, you should check out Tony’s two novels about the continuing adventures of Jack the Giant Killer from the classic Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale, both wild, fast-paced rides much like Secret History: Beanstalk and Beyond and Taliesin’s Last Apprentice.