I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Please note: this is a review of the sample offered on Edelweiss, which was about one-third of the total book (Part 1), and is not a review of the complete book.
Wilhemenia is the orphaned queen of a conquered kingdom, a girl disguised as a refugee duchess in an enemy kingdom helping to free her enslaved people and their right to use magic even though other kingdoms believe wraith, a dangerous by-product of magic, is slowly destroying the world.
The worldbuilding in this book is phenomenal – there’s so much culture and different beliefs and even small gestures and sayings used by the characters. The one issue I had with it is how much of the world-building is relayed through dialogue – even Wil herself acknowledges that people are reciting lessons or indulging in hearing their own voices. Perhaps I would be more sympathetic if the words were coming from Wil herself – there’s nothing wrong with passing on information and world-building so long as it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the story. I also wish I had access to the map that’s supposed to be in the beginning of this book, because the three main kingdoms and the minor ones around them sound so interesting, and also because the main threat is environmental and moving ever closer, so I’d like a better grasp on how much wraith has eaten how much kingdom.
Wilheminia is pretending to be Duchess Juliana of Liania, which has fallen to wraith. She’s really the lost orphaned queen of Aecor, on the other side of the Indigo Kingdom, which forced other kingdoms into signing a no-magic agreement in an effort to curb the wraith. Wil’s a totally awesome character – she’s quick with her mind, wits, her physicality and her bravery. Oh, and she’s an illegal magic user, and I’m pretty sure none of her gang, the Ospreys, know that. Other characters of note include Melanie, who’s up to something she won’t let Wil in on; Tobiah, the surly crown prince of the Indigo Kingdom, who’s newly engaged; the other Ospreys, who were left behind when Wil and Melanie entered the Indigo Kingdom palace; and Black Knife.
Can I just say oh my, Black Knife? That is one masked vigilante I wouldn’t mind being captured by. Of course, in the sample I read, which is only about one-third of the book, Wil and Black Knife aren’t friends yet, but are becoming uneasy, if still suspicious, allies. I’m certain I know his true identity – it’s a bit hard to write this kind of Young Adult novel without being all obvious about it – and I’d really like to see Wil realise it, too, and then get on with the kissing. I mean, there’s nothing romantic between them in the sample, but I just know it’s got to work out that way. Why else were we introduced so early? It’s the basis of YA!
I am aware of another book with a similar theme I recently read, Sarah Raasch’s Snow Like Ashes. Both contain young women leads who are capable warriors, who are(show spoiler)
from kingdoms that have been enslaved by a neighbour due to a policy on magic use. Why did I rate the sample of The Orphan Queen 5 stars and Snow Like Ashes, which I read in its entirely only 4, if they are so similar and both enjoyable? It’s as simple as this: I didn’t feel the romance at all in Snow Like Ashes, and although there was not yet any romance written into The Orphan Queen, I could have cut the sexual tension with a knife.
I need the rest of this book right now. Like, RIGHT NOW. And I’ll probably track down Meadows’ Incarnate books as well, because I just really enjoyed reading this sample of The Orphan Queen.