Book Review: A Broken Queen by Sarah Kozloff
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: Book 3 of The Nine Realms
Publisher: Tor Books (March 24, 2020)
Length: 419 pages
To start, I have to say I’m a little disappointed with this installment, considering how strong the first two were. This one was still good but not my favorite, given the shift away from our main character to focus on some others. Pacing also took a hit as the author was clearly pulling things back, rearranging the stage in preparation for the next book, the conclusion.
The Broken Queen by Sarah Kozloff picks up not long after the end of the previous book, The Queen of Raiders. After the epic battle, Cérulia is left beaten, burned and, well…broken. Luckily for her, she is rescued by a group of travelers, who take her to be healed and nursed back to health. Unfortunately though, the damage has been done, and Cérulia’s trauma is more than just the physical, as this setback has also demoralized her and made her doubt her purpose.
Still, while her quest for revenge may have almost gotten her killed, it did provide her with a new sense of clarity. Cérulia realizes now that her fate lies back home in Weirandale, where she is meant to retake her mother’s stolen throne. But first, she’ll need to retain her strength and muster up her resources and allies. Her connection to her talent, the power to speak with animals, has also been affected when she was grievously injured, so she must learn to feel comfortable using her abilities again.
If only this novel’s focus had been more on Cérulia and her journey to physical and mental recovery, I think I would have felt a deeper connection to the story. Instead, Kozloff misses this opportunity further explore our protagonist’s internal conflicts, choosing to follow different characters for most of the book, so that Cérulia’s tale is almost relegated to the backburner. It is also starting to grate on me that she takes on so many aliases, especially now that these bird nicknames are getting a little contrived and cheesy—she calls herself “Phénix” in this volume, for example, and that’s just a little too put on for me.
Fortunately, Cérulia takes back control her own story in the second half and towards the end. But before this can happen, we must cycle through a bunch of POVs, many of which failed to interest me much, to be completely honest. I realize that Kozloff wanted to show readers what else is happening around the realm, but it was done at the cost of “parking” Cérulia and not giving her the extra page time she deserved during this crucial stage of her development, and I don’t know if I can get past that. None of the other characters, from Thalen and the resistance to Matwyck really called to me in this book, and while the political situation in Weirandale was important to know, reading about it was also a drag so that admittedly killed some of my enthusiasm.
Still, a lot of great things also came out of this installment, not least of them the expansion to the world-building or the attention given to the spirits, who are becoming a more influential force on the lives of our characters. Apparently, the lives of gods are as complicated and full of drama as the mortals. We’re also edging our way ever closer to the end of the series, with all the pieces being maneuvered into their proper places on the gameboard. Cérulia is becoming stronger, and by the end of the novel, she is exactly where she needs to be, poised to strike.
The good news is, all these are signs we’re building up to an unforgettable conclusion, and I am still excited to read the fourth and final book, despite being slightly disappointed with The Broken Queen. I’m sure lot of my dissatisfaction had to do with the reasons discussed here, though I also think some of it was due to the diminished status of Cérulia herself. After all, it’s tough watching a character you love brought low, but at the same time, there is always the promise of them coming back stronger and more interesting than before. This is where I think we are now, and if I’m right, The Cerulean Queen will be a stunning finale.