Title: The Queen of Blood
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating: 4 stars
This book was such a pleasant surprise! I didn’t go into this expecting to like it as much as it did. There was nothing that bothered me at all, and a few unique things that made the story that much more enjoyable. I really appreciated how quickly events progressed in this story, while still being able to give us plenty of detail. Daleina goes from age ten to age fifteen in only a couple chapters, and within the first three chapters we learn a great deal about this world and its politics without it ever feeling like an info dump. Things like the academy’s entry trials aren’t unnecessarily dragged out for suspense value, and unimportant details aren’t included just to lengthen the story; years of Deleina’s time at the academy were covered in a matter of pages, and the time skips felt completely natural. By the middle of the book, Delaina is nineteen and has completed a major portion of her training. The reader also never knows when a character is safe, and the author doesn’t hold back when it comes to blood or unexpected deaths.
– entire villages and cities woven into the branches of enormous trees, a pet wolf, ziplines to fly from place to place
– spirits made of fire, spirits with dragonfly wings, spirits with the face of an owl and the body of a woman
– female friendships, the relationship between the female main character and her male mentor doesn’t ever become romantic (!), emphasis on family and taking care of each other
– the story never drags, time moves forward very quickly
It was great that the story was told from multiple POVs; it seems like a lot of fantasy novels are told from limited perspectives. We were given chapters from all kinds of characters- the Queen, Daleina (a student), Ven (a Champion), Hanna (a headmistress), etc. This way the story was able to venture out beyond one storyline, and we were able to see multiple events that were happening at once, inside and outside of the plot involving Delaina. Delaina is a character that I’ve really come to like. She has the motivation to work hard towards her goals, and doesn’t expect anything to be handed to her. I was afraid there would be petty drama at the academy between the students, but they actually all became friends. When Merecot started the academy out picking on people, Daleina turned their interactions positive and the girls ended up forming a friendship. I was happy that the story wasn’t bogged down by bullying and petty squabbles. These female friendships lasted throughout the novel, and it was refreshing to have the candidates support each other instead of constantly being at each other’s throats.
“I watched you as well,” the champion said. “I saw how hard you worked.”
“Uh, thank you.” She wanted to say, Then why didn’t you pick me?
“Your technique is solid. It is obvious that you are dedicated and work hard. But if you want a little friendly advice . . . that is your problem. You work hard at things that should come naturally to a candidate.” Daleina felt her stomach sink. But I’m doing the best I can.”
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the banished warrior described in the book’s blurb didn’t end up being the MC’s love interest. He is older than her and teaches her many of the things he knows, without romance even ever being involved- only a bit of friendship. Daleina does have a couple of love interests eventually (both at different points in her life), but this is never a major plot point. When Daleina does find someone she is interested in, she doesn’t swoon over him or let him influence her decisions at all, they simply support each other.
This world is unique in many ways, and that uniqueness was one of the best things about this book. The villages and towns are located in extremely large trees, and most of the furniture, buildings, and roads are crafted directly out of these trees. The spirits can control fire, ice, water, air, earth, and wood, so a spirit under someone’s control can do many things; they can make trees and flowers grow, can create a waterfall, can change the layout of the land, or any other number of things. Everyone is taught that the two primary instincts of the spirits is to destroy and to create; the heirs are trained to control the spirits and influence these actions.
“Often the most powerful failed—they relied too much on brute strength and never had to worry about strategy. And eventually even the most powerful met a force more powerful, and if they couldn’t think and adapt—if they didn’t understand that power sometimes wasn’t enough, that only queens were strong enough and even the strongest heir could lose a battle of pure power . . .”
The heir system is something else this book does differently. Instead of the Queen’s heir being decided by bloodline, in this world there are a large number of girls that are trained to be heirs, and when the queen dies one of them is chosen by the spirits to be her replacement. The ideal heir has a strong affinity for control over the spirits, and when they become Queen their responsibilities include influencing the spirits and keeping the population out of harm’s way. The current Queen has shown great power, but there are things happening behind the scenes that could affect this, and events starting to take place in the world that are bringing people start to question how capable their Queen really is.
This review is getting super long, but in conclusion- I really liked these characters and this world, the story always kept me on my toes, and the uniqueness of the story was an unexpected bonus. A lot happened in this installment and I’m excited to see where things go from here. Hopefully the author keeps this great pace throughout the series, and we get to see even more of this captivating world that she’s created.
Don’t trust the fire, for it will burn you.
Don’t trust the ice, for it will freeze you.
Don’t trust the water, for it will drown you.
Don’t trust the air, for it will choke you.
Don’t trust the earth, for it will bury you.
Don’t trust the trees, for they will rip you,
rend you, tear you, kill you dead