The Reluctant Queen (Queens of Renthia Book 2), by Sarah Beth Durst

I loved Queen of Blood, the first of Sarah Beth Durst's books about the queens of Renthia, set in a world teeming with vicious, bloodthirsty nature spirits kept from unleashing destruction only by the queen's power.  That book ended with Daleina, an unlikely candidate, become queen of Renthia in a bloodbath, and the second book, The Reluctant Queen (Harper Voyage, July 2017), picks up right after that. And I liked if almost as much as the first book (which was very nice for me!).

And it starts with an awful surprise (which I reveal, since it is right at the beginning, and since any plot summary is dependent on it).  Daleina might not have been the most "powerful" queen ever, but she was all set to be a good one, except that suddenly she has started having blackouts.  These turn out to be the onset of a fatal illness, the False Death, for which there is no cure.  Daleina is going to die, without an heir, freeing the spirits to wreck murderous havoc, and even while she is still alive, when she's in the throes of a false death, the spirits are free to kill with great enthusiasm.  Daleina needs an heir fast, someone who can provide back-up spirit control right away, and take over after the few months she might have left before false death becomes real.

But possible heirs are thin on the ground, most of them having been killed in the first book.

Ven, the Queen's Champion, sets off into obscure parts of the realm, looking for a woman whose power to command spirits might never have been recognized and formally trained.  And he finds one, Naelin, a mother of two children who has absolutely no desire to have anything to do with spirits (except keeping her children safe from them).  What follows next is the story of Naelin's reluctant journey to power, Daleina's struggle to keep her kingdom safe, a side-story of a psychopath's alchemical endeavours to find a cure for Daleina, and several betrayals, an enemy invasion, and lots of horrible deaths (spirits aren't tidy killers). There is also a pleasing romance.

It is good that Naelin turns out to be an interesting and sympathetic point of view character.  Daleina is also a point of view character, and since I am very fond of Daleina and  she is dying it would have been hard to enjoy reading the book unless we had Naelin there to shoulder the narrative. 

The first book is a story for the young escapist side of me--girl at a sort of boarding school learns to master her powers.  This second book is one for actual aged me--woman no longer young fights to protect her children by honing her innate powers, while dealing with her failed marriage and figuring out what the rest of her life might entail.  It is true that protecting children is an incredibly strong motivator, and sometimes one must protect the whole realm in order to keep the children safe, and it makes sense that this would drive a heroine of a fantasy story; it's somewhat reaffirming to see a book about this!  Because clearly I myself am not a chosen child of destiny, unless my own mother has kept the rhyming prophecy secret from me, so finding untapped powers in middle age is really my current best shot at fantasy heroine-ness.

There was, perhaps, a tad of rushed-ness at the end, but it's also possible that I was feeling rushed to get to the end to find out what happened, because it was all very tense!  But in any event, I can recommend these books to anyone who likes other world fantasy with strong female characters, and doesn't mind a bit of unpleasant chewing (by evil nature spirits).

disclaimer: review copy received with utmost pleasure from the author.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds very exciting. I absolutely love the cover. It's gorgeous. Thanks for the review.


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