First off, the blurb for this book, and to some extent the cover, make this book seem a lot more boring than it is. Disregard that.
This book was a DELIGHT. It was incredibly hard to put down, and I became so engrossed in it that I almost missed a bus stop more than once. It's a GEM. Maia is an incredibly KIND protagonist, and it was a JOY to watch him grow into himself, and his decisions.
This book isn't a big action book-- while there are overarching plots and some attempted assassinations, the story is about Maia growing into being an emperor that he never even dreamed of becoming. The names and places and world building is thrown at you fast and thick, but not in an egregious way-- although I admit to occasionally being like "who is this?? what does that form of address mean??" it was easy to run with the flow of the beautiful writing. The author handled the different forms of address easily and meaningfully-- when Maia occasionally slips into the informal first, it's a moment that is meaningful, not just a stray bit of language/worldbuilding.
LOVED the future empress, seriously hope that if the author ever revisits this world, she spends some time on her and Maia's astronomer aunt.
This book reminded me more than a bit of the second half/book of the Crown Dual/Court Dual book/duology, in all the best ways.