Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date Published: September 20, 2016
Date(s) Read: August 29, 2019 – September 1, 2019
My Rating: ★★★★☆
The Queen of Blood is the first book in a High Fantasy series. The world has spirits, who exist solely to create and destroy things, and one of the things they want to destroy is Humans. Some humans are born with the affinity to spirits, which gives them the ability to bend the spirits to their will. Only women have the affinity, and so queens are chosen to keep the people (and the spirits, as well) safe. A new queen is chosen from a pool of “heirs” who have been trained extensively and hand-picked by the queen herself.
Despite there being a queen in power there, attacks on outer forest villages have been happening more and more frequently. The Champion Ven and his candidate to become heir (and our main character) Daleina try their best to help these villages, while not breaking the “Do No Harm” command between the spirits and humans.
I don’t want to give away too much, but a lot of politics and magic ensues.
Some people have this shelved as YA on Goodreads, enough that it’s only second to Fantasy, but it actually is not marketed as a YA series and was shelved with adult books at my library. However, I do see the crossover appeal. Our main character is a young woman who for a good part of the book is training at a magical school and then under a mentor. There are trials that then take place before the girls are selected as heirs. There’s background romances, strong female friendships, and a big part of this book is grappling with the idea of growing up and leaving home and coming to terms that home isn’t going to stay the same forever. Also there’s not any vulgarity, gratuitous violence, and there’s only mild sexual situations, so it’d definitely be appropriate for teens.
As far as writing style goes I can’t say I noticed it at all while I was reading it, which generally for me means it was pretty good. There were no distracting attempts at abusing a thesaurus nor were there any glaring flaws. It’s a straightforward style, which I tend to like.
The plot had a decent amount going on. Our main perspective is from Daleina, but we also get chapters from Ven, and occasionally from Queen Fara.
I really enjoyed the world here. The spirits are more a part of the world than they are anything else (except for one, but I won’t say more than that) even as a large part of the plot revolves around them. Aratay is a forest kingdom complete with houses and entire villages in the trees. It was such a fun setting to read and it was easy to become immersed in throughout the story.
There’s enough going on to keep things moving and intriguing, but not so much that I think it would confuse anyone. As far as fantasy goes this one is fairly accessible, and you know, I like that. Not every fantasy has to go out of its way to make the world and plot as complicated as possible (though I do love intricate world-building and plots with a lot of different folds, too, when done well.)
The stakes are high, and I won’t spoil anything, but the ending had all the payoff I was looking for.
The characters felt decently fleshed out to me.
There were points where I didn’t feel super connected to Daleina or where her choices and frustrations didn’t really make a lot of sense to me. But that wasn’t a problem throughout, and the times I felt that way didn’t ruin the overall story for me. Overall I enjoyed her a lot as the main character.
It was extremely refreshing to have a fantasy story revolve around a character that actually had to work hard to achieve their goals. I’m so sick of these perfect men (and women, though that’s more in YA) that are great at absolutely everything without even trying. Oh, and if they’re a man they also get all the ladies with just the bat of an eyelash. Those characters are hard to connect with, annoying to read about, and I don’t even want to root for them because I know they’re going to succeed no matter what. In this story, there was a real chance of Daleina not succeeding; there was a lot of emphasis on how much harder she had to work than all of her peers- not even to excel at the magical school she was at, but only to passably get through her training- and that makes her one of the more admirable main characters I’ve read about. I really cannot stress enough how much I appreciated this.
That said, Champion Ven was absolutely my favorite character of the whole thing. He’s disgraced toward the beginning of the book, and spends the rest of it adventuring among the outer forest and trying his best to save villages from spirit attacks. He tries his best to do the right thing and to be noble, but he has one major thing holding him back, a past affair with the Queen.
On that note, Ven and Queen Fara’s romance didn’t really translate well, in my opinion. The chemistry felt fabricated. There was a lot of telling rather than showing, and I didn’t feel any romantic or sexual tension in the scenes I think I was supposed to. It was in the background enough that it didn’t bother me too much, but I did sort of find myself rolling my eyes whenever they were together or whenever Ven thought about how beautiful she is.
Daleina and Hamon on the other hand were a couple I really liked. Their chemistry felt real, at one point they have an argument and that tension feels real and relatable as well, and I just really appreciated what we got of their romance, and I’m also glad it stayed mostly in the background.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I am planning on continuing this series. This series deserves way more attention than it’s got- if this first book is indicative of anything- and I’m so glad I gave it a shot. I literally only decided to see if it was at my library because I had nothing else to read and sorted my goodreads shelf by random to pick the first three books that came up. And I’m glad I did.