Book Review: The Cerulean 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: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 4 of The Nine Realms
Publisher: Tor Books (April 21, 2020)
Length: 512 pages
Narrator: Imogen Church
Following a whirlwind release schedule, the four-part Nine Realms series has finally come to a close, and quite honestly, I’m a bit torn as to how I feel about this concluding volume. While it was both invigorating and satisfying enough for an ending, the path the overall story took wasn’t like anything I expected and it’s possible that may have biased me from the start.
The Cerulean Queen by Sarah Kozloff picks up right after the end of the previous book, and Princess Cérulia is broken no more. In fact, she wastes no time taking back her throne and cleaning house. Ever since her mother’s death, the ruling class of Weirandale has become even more corrupted, leaving Cérulia in a bind because she has no idea who she can trust.
On top of that, many of her loyal subjects had been castigated, imprisoned, or outright killed, resulting in the realm in chaos and families torn apart. The war with the Oros is also ongoing, with their army on Cérulia’s doorstep. She now finds herself in over the head, trying to be a good ruler while relearning all the intricacies of palace etiquette. She hasn’t forgotten either that, as queen, she is expected to marry quickly and produce a daughter to carry on the royal line, especially with her so precarious.
Fortunately though, Cérulia need not carry the burdens of her duties all alone. There are still a few advisors at the palace loyal to her, and she has also regained full control over her gift of communicating with animals, recruiting the palace dogs to literally sniff out any remaining traitors. Her adoptive family has given her their support as well, and Cérulia is overjoyed to be reunited with her loved ones. Sometimes she can almost forget that Weirandale is still a mess, and that as queen, everyone is counting on her to keep them safe. Her time in exile has taught her many things, but sooner or later, a time will come where her resolve will be tested.
I will say this right off the bat—the best parts of the book were in the first hundred pages and the last hundred pages, which leaves a good chunk of this 500-page novel that I thought was just okay. First off, I had not expected Cérulia to take back her throne so quickly; I had thought we would get a nice steady build up to the big battle, but all this pretty much took place in the intro. What came next was a lot of what I called “administrative drama” or the subtleties of running a kingdom. From the weeding out of Cérulia’s enemies to the tracking down the secret prisons where many of her supporters were held, I understood why these developments were important—but the truth was they also dragged down the whole book. I also didn’t think these sections needed to be so detailed. After the umpteenth courtroom scene or conversation about Cérulia’s wardrobe, my patience wore thin and I simply wanted the story to get moving.
To the author’s credit, I did like how the themes of The Cerulean Queen unified the series. Cérulia’s experiences in the last three books have given her the wisdom and skills to be a good queen, as well as taught her how to handle all kinds of challenges in her fledgling reign. Kozloff also continues to expand upon the world-building, detailing the spiritual realm of the gods and the nature of the protagonist’s gift. Several of the characters Cérulia encountered on her journey are back to support her, which speaking of, one of the major side arcs includes her reunion with Thalen and the development of their romantic spark. All these threads converge as the last section of the novel sees pacing pick up again, building up to the final showdown—and thank goodness for that, because that climax may have single-handedly won me over to the ending, making up for the sluggish parts in the middle sections.
All in all, I was happy with the way The Cerulean Queen concluded the Nine Realms series. If the epilogue was a bit cheesy and wrapped things up a little too neatly, at least it put a smile on my face. This final volume has also cemented Sarah Kozloff’s status as an able storyteller and a talented builder of fantasy worlds and systems on a grand scale. I’m impressed by the saga she has crafted here, and I’ll be sure to be there for her next project.
Audibook Comments: After reading the first three books in print, I came to this fourth one in audio and I won’t lie, it was a bit jarring to switch formats this late in the game, but I enjoyed the narrator Imogen Church’s performance. Some of her voices were a bit on the goofy side, but for a series with so many characters, I understood the need to differentiate between them, and she was able to cover an impressive range of accents and tones.