The Empire – Michael Ball

Published By: Bonnier
Pages: 400
Released On: 13/10/2022

1922. When Jack Treadwell arrives at The Empire, in the middle of a rehearsal, he is instantly mesmerised. But amid the glitz and glamour, he soon learns that the true magic of the theatre lies in its cast of characters – both on stage and behind the scenes.

There’s stunning starlet Stella Stanmore and Hollywood heartthrob Lancelot Drake; and Ruby Rowntree, who keeps the music playing, while Lady Lillian Lassiter, theatre owner and former showgirl, is determined to take on a bigger role. And then there’s cool, competent Grace Hawkins, without whom the show would never go on . . . could she be the leading lady Jack is looking for?

When long-held rivalries threaten The Empire’s future, tensions rise along with the curtain. There is treachery at the heart of the company and a shocking secret waiting in the wings. Can Jack discover the truth before it’s too late, and the theatre he loves goes dark?


Thanks to NetGalley and Bonnier for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I start this review by saying I LOVE Michael Ball. I’ve seen him once in the Les Miserables Concert, and once alongside Alfie Boe. So I was desperate to read this novel and desperate for me to love it, but sadly, it fell a bit short for me.

Quite a number of characters are introduced in a very short space of time so make sure you’ve got your wits about you when you start this, as even seemingly insignificant characters will play a large part to the overall story.

It’s not the most proficiently written book, but as a debut from someone not in the industry, it wasn’t too bad,

My main positive is that it really revisits the splendour of old-school, classic glamour and theatre, and as a big musical theatre lover, I really appreciated that. There is definitely an ease to reading it. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s just a bit of fun. I also really liked the main character of Jack. I didn’t think I would because at the start I thought he was a bit much, a bit forward, but he quickly grew on me.

However, that’s where the positives end for me.

I didn’t think much of any of the other characters. I didn’t dislike them but I didn’t like them either. They were very middle of the road and I didn’t find myself caring about them. The only exception to this tepidness was Joe Allerdyce. He was meant to be the villain of the story but he wasn’t particularly a good one. He was quite insipid but not very scary, but randomly get changing personas. I felt he needed more development, as did the characters as a whole.

I found it lacking in substance. It felt drawn out and rushed. There seemed to be very little going on for the most part of it, and yet chapters were dedicated to it.

Like I said, it wasn’t as accomplished as I’d hoped but it’s still a relatively pleasant read. I would be interested in reading any future works as I think his storytelling will grow in time. I did have my concerns that he’d used a ghost writer like a number of celebrity authors, but my gut instinct is he’s done it himself, which is good.

Honestly – and I hate saying it because I absolutely adore him – but speaking from a neutral position, it just fell flat, and there were some bits I was simply tempted to skip.

However, even though my review is mainly negative, I won’t say it was a bad book. All the other reviews I’ve seen have been 4 or 5 stars so I’m aware it’s just personal taste. It was a pleasant, easy read and I’ll admit the ending was satisfying and added a few twists that suggest a sequel. So if you’re in the majority and like it, then it feels like there’s more to come.

Sorry Michael.

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