Book Review: The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of The Queens of Renthia
Publisher: Harper Voyager (July 4, 2017)
Length: 360 pages
Author Information: Website | Twitter
The opening volume of the Queens of Renthia series, The Queen of Blood, was one of my most surprising reads of last year, both in how the story turned out as well as how much I enjoyed it. As a book that contained many elements of your average Young Adult fantasy, I confess I hadn’t really expected much from it at all, though ultimately I came out of it very satisfied and impressed. Needless to say, I’m glad I picked up The Reluctant Queen because, like its predecessor, this sequel was a breath of fresh air, surpassing my expectations once again.
Following the shocking events of the previous novel, Daleina has become queen, though in her eyes, the price of her taking the throne was much too high. Still, despite her devastation at all that had happened, the citizens of Aratay are depending on her to keep the volatile spirits of the natural world in line, and Daleina is determined to do all she can to keep her people safe.
But now, the future of her realm is in jeopardy, for Daleina has just received some terrible news: it turns out that the ill effects she has been experiencing lately are the symptoms of a fatal inherited disease, and she may not have long to live. Worse, if she dies without someone to take her place, the land will be left without a protector to control the spirits, leaving them to run wild over the settlements, destroying and killing everything they touch.
And so, in her desperation to find an heir, Daleina sends her champions out into the world to track down the most promising and talented candidates to bring them back for training—even if they have no aspirations to become queen, for not all girls with the affinity to manipulate spirits wind up at the academies to learn how to use their powers. Some manage to stay under the radar, especially if they simply want to live a humble, quiet existence. Naelin is one such person, who has kept her powerful abilities a secret ever since she was a little girl. She’s content with her life in her remote village in the forest, married to a woodsman and raising their son and daughter. However, when Daleina’s champion comes calling, Naelin’s days of hiding may be over. Now that the truth has been revealed, the spirits have marked her as a threat, and despite her strong reluctance to leave her old familiar life behind, becoming the queen’s heir may be the only way she can protect her children.
I love it when a series evolves, and there’s no question about it—this one is maturing in more ways than one. First of all, the story has grown richer with the addition of a new POV character, and I have to say Naelin is one of the best characters I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in a book. Much like how Daleina was in the previous novel, Naelin is not your typical “Chosen One”; she’s a middle-aged woman and a mother, whose only desire to provide a safe, stable home for her children. She loves the simple yet rewarding life she has built, and is content with the way things are. Furthermore, unlike The Queen of Blood which at times had the feel of a young adult novel because of the age of its protagonist as well as some of its adolescent “magic school” themes, The Reluctant Queen shines the light on topics which are more geared towards adulthood (such as parenting and marital issues), imbuing this series with a certain weightiness that certainly wasn’t there before.
This also makes the novel’s conflicts seem more significant somehow, because Naelin has so much more to lose. Her charming, adorable children are her entire world, and Sarah Beth Durst should be applauded for doing such an excellent job getting readers to engage and sympathize with this little family. They wanted nothing more than to live their lives in obscurity and peace, but instead they are thrust into the limelight, and Naelin is given the most difficult choice of all, which really made me appreciate the author’s exploration into the many different roles of women by featuring a predominantly female cast. On the surface, we have Daleina, whose duty is to provide safety to her people, as well as Naelin, who is a mother fully devoted to her children, but nothing is ever so clear cut or simple. Whether it’s queen, protector, wife, mother, daughter, sister—some characters must bear the burden of a great number of responsibilities and take on multiple roles. The timeless themes of family and sacrifice woven through this story are very powerful and touching, and frankly I wish there were more books like these out there.
Last year, The Queen of Blood made it onto my list of books that I felt were deserving of more attention, and I maintain that more than ever, especially with how good The Reluctant Queen turned out. I really can’t wait to see what happens next. The Queens of Renthia is shaping up to be an excellent series, and I definitely won’t make the mistake of underestimating it again.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Queen of Blood (Book 1)
Still good…intriguing. Cos you never know with that second book
You’re right, it’s always a risk when book two is very different. Good thing this worked out! 🙂
I just picked up the first book last week!
Nice, I hope you enjoy it!
Hmmmmmm… I’d rented The Queen of Blood from the library over the spring and thought it was just OK. It was mostly due to the writing, the overall younger and less mature vibe. I’m not sure how else to put it, especially since I do like YA fantasy a lot, especially when a story verges on the more mature side of YA. But finding it in an adult novel didn’t work so well for me. So I decided then that I probably wouldn’t continue the series.
But after your review of The Reluctant Queen (which is very good, btw), I might have to reconsider it.
I have a feeling you’ll like this one a lot more than the first book, because it does move away from the YA themes and has a more mature feel. I wasn’t crazy about the younger vibes in the first book either, though I enjoyed the story. Hence I liked this one a lot!
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This sounds so good! I was pleasantly surprised by The Queen of Blood too, but I’m even more excited for this knowing how distinct Naelin’s character is from most fantasy heroines. Honestly, I’ve only read a handful of fantasy novels that feature mothers and/or middle aged women in prominent roles, so that alone is enough to entice me.
Yeah, I’m so glad the way this turned out. I was a little nervous when I found out about the new pov but I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out!
This sounds like my cup of coffee.
I’m glad to hear it! I’m really enjoying this series 😀
I still need to read the first one but these are definitely on my list. I love the idea of a middle aged protagonist- how often does THAT happen? Someone already married and with a family, and having to make a choice like that. Nice revew and I want to read these even more now. And fabulous cover.
Yes, I love unconventional protagonists! And I’m especially sympathetic towards protagonists with young children now lol 😀
There were some details I gleaned from your review of the first book that made me think this story might either evolve in an engaging direction, or lose its way, and from your comments in this post it seems that the former path won. I like the idea of the hard choices the characters must make, and the personal consequences to be taken into account for the greater good. Certainly a series to keep under my radar…
Thanks for sharing 🙂
The themes are definitely more complex in this sequel. I’m really enjoying the series so far, and I’m especially excited to see that it’s maturing 🙂
What a beautiful cover this book has. Sounds more interesting than just YA.
Yeah, I’m really digging these covers. And I’m happy too that the story is evolving beyond the YA-ish themes!
I loved Queen of Blood and as glowing as the reviews are for the second book, I can’t pick this up because I can’t bear to read about Daleina being ill and dying. 😦 I’d be interested in a third book if the series continues, but I just can’t do this one.
Don’t worry, things turn out “okay” 🙂 I won’t say anything more because I don’t want to give spoilers, but I just don’t want you to miss this excellent book because of those fears 😉
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omg, for real?! I don’t mind spoilers at all, and I’m so relieved to hear it’s not a downer ending for Daleina after all. Thank you! ❤
No problem! There’s definitely more to come for Daleina 😀
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Glad to see this worked out for you because it’s a series I want to read – since reading your review of No.1 tbh. In fact I think I have a copy already.
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