#Fantasy Review: The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst (@sarahbethdurst)

The Queens of Renthia is very much a traditional fantasy, full of elemental spirits, forest settings, and a legitimate sense of wonder. It is also surprisingly violent, with the dark, bloody, treacherous climax of The Queen of Blood genuinely impressing me.

While I felt the first half of The Reluctant Queen was too much a repeat of the first book, with yet another heir being trained to take the throne, there were enough differences to keep me intrigued, giving Sarah Beth Durst time to orchestrate a few big reveals that drive the second half toward a much bigger conflict. Had I read it first (as she apparently wrote it), I suspect this second volume would have been my favorite, but that familiarity holds it back, placing it in "just as good" territory, rather than "better than the first."

Let me start by talking about those differences, which are significant. With Daleina as the protagonist, the first book was very much a young heroine's coming of age tale, complete with training montages, innocent adoration, and first-love romance. The sequel takes a much more mature approach, selecting Naelin - a wife and a mother - as the new protagonist. That choice shifts the focus significantly, adopting a reluctant heroine and getting deeper into themes of family, responsibility, and accountability.

As for the second half of the novel, it echoes the betrayals of the first, but this time the conflict comes from without, which further teases the wider word-building of the first book. Similarly, the story once again forces us to ask if the ends ever justify the means, but this time on a smaller scale, with the introduction of Hamon's mother, an amusing, if entirely amoral, sociopath. It's just as uncomfortable a story as the first, and perhaps even more so for the human motives involved, with a betrayal that carries a far heavier emotional burden, even if it too is on a smaller scale. The conflict behind the second half is interesting, especially knowing now that it will drive the final volume, and while the climax may not be as shocking, it's still entirely satisfying.

Bring on The Queen of Sorrow, and the tragedies that await.

Paperback, 396 pages
Published January 30th 2018 by Harper Voyager (first published July 4th 2017)

Comments

  1. I really liked how the series matured with this book, and not just with the change in protagonist, but with the shift in themes as well.

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  2. Seems worth a shot to read. Thanks.

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  3. I really need to get to reading this series! ...I think I say this too much. But it's true!

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