My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
The Queen’s Rising may seem a little familiar in terms of story but there’s something very intriguing about it and I loved the author’s writing. I’m really looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.
Born out of wedlock, Brienna is cast off by her noble family and sent to Magnolia House – a boarding house for those looking to study the passions: art, music, dramatics, wit and knowledge. Brienna must discover her passion and train hard to perfect her skill, in the hope that she will one day graduate and be chosen by a wealthy patron, looking to support one of the `impassioned’.
As Brienna gets closer to the eve of her graduation, she also grows closer to her smart (and handsome) tutor, Cartier. He can sense that she is hiding a secret, but Brienna chooses not to reveal that she is experiencing memories of her ancestors – memories uncovering the mysteries of the past that may have dangerous consequences in the present.
A daring plot is brewing – to overthrow the usurper king and restore the rightful monarchy – and Brienna’s memories hold the key to its success. Cartier desperately wants to help Brienna, but she must chose her friends wisely, keep her enemies close and trust no one if she is to save herself and her people.
This book really surprised me with just how good it was. This probably doesn’t sound like much of a compliment but I’ve been pretty down on YA and YA fantasy in particular recently so for any book in this genre to impress me is a real achievement.
It didn’t particularly help that this book doesn’t seem to get the best reviews. There are some who love it but there are more than a few who fall on the “it’s too slow” or “it’s not original enough” side of the fence. Needless to say I was a little wary going in (I really need to stop reading reviews before picking up a book). But, while this book did take a little bit to get going there was something about it that I really loved. Yes, it does have some issues (that’s why I couldn’t give it 5 stars) but I found myself being drawn completely into the story and the world that the author created.
I will admit it is absolutely full of the usual YA fantasy tropes, mystery about main character’s background (she doesn’t know who her father is), discovery of unexpected abilities and important role (special snowflake alert), evil dictator style ruler, secret identities and forbidden romance but with likeable characters and an intriguing world I was happy to go along for the ride.
I thought Brienna made for a wonderful main character. She’s clever, inquisitive, brave and more importantly conflicted a lot of the time. She’s often feeling a number of emotions at once and I loved how the author portrayed this confusion, which is just so relatable. She has no special skills or abilities, no real passion for anything (other than finding out more about her background) so is often feeling a little lost, particularly as she’s surrounded in school by the incredibly talented who know exactly what their path is.
This ability of the author to make you relate so strongly to the main character and the way she portrayed emotions was definitely one of the highlights for me. I felt all of the feels and I loved the relationships between the characters. The romance may have been a little bit wrong (I won’t go into the why) but I shipped it so much. Similarly the friendships between the women in the book in particular were so well developed and real. I loved how they supported each other.
Some of the other relationships worked a little less well and I do feel the author should have maybe taken a little more time over them. They developed a little too quickly for me to fully buy into them but this was due to what was my main issue with this story, the pacing. There is just a tad too much time spend on some sections and nowhere near enough on others. I can understand why some reviewers describe it as slow, the beginning in particular feels slow as the author takes a while to gradually build the world and the relationships between certain characters. I personally enjoyed these sections (I was very happy watching one relationship develop) but I can understand it frustrating others. Where I found issue was with the instant relationships. One very brief conversation seemed to be enough to form a lasting bond and intense loyalty which I’m not buying.
There isn’t a huge amount of action in this story, for the most part it’s plotting and scheming, unraveling mysteries and travelling across the world but it does have its moments. What violence there is tends to be sudden but I should add a warning that it’s a little gruesome in places and even I found it to be shocking. I did however love the contrast the author created between the two kingdoms Valenia and Maevana, one seeming very cultured and refined and the other brutal and savage and I think this occasional violence illustrated it well.
Overall this was a very enjoyable read and while I think it could have worked as a standalone I will be very interested to see how the story develops over the next two books.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review.