When Burning Life came out, I decided to try that one instead and was not super impressed. In contrast, over time the reviews and memories of people who read the Empyrean Age novel have been generally positive and a lot of people were excited for Templar One, written by the same author as Empyrean Age. So I decided to read the first book and give it a try.
I was impressed with the writing style. It was easy to read, the imagery was decent without being overwhelming. The characters were believable for the most part, with realistic motivations and personalities. There were four story arcs, one focusing on people from each of the major empires, and I found myself wishing that the novel had been two or four novels so that each story could have been given more room to cover more of the events and characters. That is always a good sign.
Even though the book felt like a marketing tool (as in, "here is EVE and this is what the major factions are about") I liked the fact that the book moved the plot of the major empires forward. For example, Jamyl Sarum was empress by the end, the Minmatar retrieved some of the Starkmanir tribe from slavery, the Caldari had a revolution for all intents and purposes, and the Gallente had been invaded and Caldari Prime occupied by the Caldari. Of course, the book was only able to move the plat forward because the expansion of the same name moved the game storyline forward, but its appreciated nonetheless.
The ground combat scenes, both in one on one violence and in military clashes, was excellent. I really wanted more of the Minmatar/Amarr and Gallente/Caldari ground battles. This alone makes me look forward to Templar One.
For a book about a game about spaceships, there was not a large amount of space combat and what's there is not stellar. That left me a little disappointed but on the other hand, I know how hard it is to write good space combat.
Some character actions and reactions are unbelievable. For example, President Fourtain allowing the Caldari to blackmail him into letting them occupy Caldari Prime and hold millions of Gallenteans hostage, while the Caldari fleet goes back to Caldari space? Yeah, I don't buy that at all. There is a reason governments don't negotiate with terrorists; its because if it works once they will keep using it to get more.
On the unbelievable track, the character called The Broker seemed like one big Deus ex machina in order to force the story of the Caldari and Gallente into the direction the writer wanted. It seemed like he had no limitations but yet was killed off at the end by an incurable disease. How convenient!
Speaking of the Caldari, I don't care what universe you live in, no human society is going to take their entire military force for an invasion of an enemy with superior military might, and in the process leave their home systems with all their civilians completely unprotected. That is beyond the pale.
A lesser transgression of credulity was the Amarr / Minmatar conflict. I find it hard to believe that the massive Amarr empire was under anything more than annoyance level threat from the secretly built Elder led invasion. "Three Titan-led battlegroups" seems insignificant in our view as capsuleers facing entire fleets of nothing but Titans, but I was willing to let that pass as the difference between game realities and canon realities. But the thought that the Amarr could not match and surpass that force with ease and required Jamyl's super-weapon equipped battleship to save the day at Sarum Prime strained my credulity as well. I'm willing to let it pass because it set up some good storytelling and I can paper it over with thoughts that perhaps the Imperial Navy was corrupt or too slow to respond fast enough in high enough numbers.
Overall I enjoyed it and I'm starting Templar One. I don't think its a book I'll read again but it definitely ranks higher than Burning Life in my eyes and its one I don't mind recommending to people looking for a decent little sci-fi novel or introduction to Eve Online.