Queen of Sorrow, by Sarah Beth Durst--strong women vs murder nature (and each other)

This is a longish post, and I don't want my main point--READ THESE BOOKS I LOVED THEM--to get lost.  So I have used bold to make points stand out so you can skim :)

The Queen of Sorrow, by Sarah Beth Durst (Harper Voyager May 15, 2018), is the third of the Queens of Renthia trilogy.  Reading the book of a trilogy you love is a very pleasant thing, especially when you use it as an excuse to ignore the tbr pile and actually treat yourself to the rare pleasure of re-reading the first two, which is what I did.  When everything is fresh in your mind, you can see the big thematic picture, appreciate the world building and character development, and, as a bonus, remember who everyone is!  So if you haven't read the first two (here are my reviews of  The Queen of Blood and The Reluctant Queen) do so!

But it is hard to review a third book, because one wants to explain everything that happened in the first two in great detail.  I shall try to avoid this, but a blog post without some plot description is not a blog post I can write, so below are some spoilers for the first two books.

But first, a general thought--this series is all about women having and using power (not just magical power) in different ways, for good and ill, for complicated reasons, and so it's not only a glorious fantasy but a thought-provoking read that will stick with you long after you finish the books.

And second, another general thought--these as marketed as grown-up books (violence plus sex-positive sex) but I think they are great YA reads, and even upper middle school reads (11 on up basically), because they are all about finding out what your strengths are and what to do with them, which is a common middle school and high school topic of worry.  In particular, give these to those who loved Kristin Cashore's Graceling books (which I hope teenagers are still reading???).

And now, back to The Queen of SorrowIf you haven't read the first two books, you can read the first paragraph without being spoiled 

Basic set-up--in the world of Renthia, nature (wood, stone, water, fire, air) is inhabited by spirits who have two motivations--create and grow (essential for humanity to survive) and kill humans (making it difficult for humanity to survive).   The spirits are held in check (mostly) by the power of the queens of the various kingdoms (always queens, because boys are never born with the gift of spirit compulsion). 

Daleina became queen because everyone else in contention when the previous queen died was murdered by spirits gone wild and willful, and though, in the second book, she was joined in her role by Naelin, another strong woman, being queen is still a burden.  Naelin was not trained from childhood as Daleina was, and she is fully grown up, with kids and a failed marriage, when she is forced to become a queen.  The story in this third book gets going when Naelin's children are kidnapped by spirits controlled by the queen of a neighboring realm, to be used as bait/hostages, and Naelin goes wild with anger and frustration.  Getting her children back is more important to her than anything else, and the land suffers and people die.  And Daleina is left trying to hold things together, and trying to figure out how to make everything ok.

So basically, if you like
--strong heroines, including one who is no longer a lithesome teenager
--wild magic, not of an alchemical spell-casting sort, but a natural phenomena
--lots of great supporting characters with their own concerns, skillsets, and romances (including an unexpected and charming queer romance)
--a lovely world of treetop ziplines, places where wild spirits are creating elemental chaos, structures of all sorts called out of the spirits by the power of imagination and strength of will
--a main character (Daleina) whose primary characteristic is to calmly, trustingly, and good-heartedly make the best of what she has
--political machinations complicated by bloodthirsty spirit agendas
--bloodthirsty spirits who turn out to more complex than expected, who are more than just murder trees, murder ice, murder dirt, etc, though they are that too.
--books I like

You will like this book, and the whole series, very much!

So I got the end, and started the author's note, and this was clearly the end of this story.  I was sad, but bravely kept reading the author's note.  And was rewarded with this:

"As soon as I finish typing this, I'll be diving back into Renthia to write a standalone novel set on the islands of Belene!"

That is very good news, and everyone should buy lots and lots of copies of the Queens of Renthia trilogy so the publishers will keep on publishing more (if Sarah chooses to write them, of course).

I am so grateful to Sarah Beth Durst for both writing the books, and for sending them to me.  The arrival of her books, and the reading thereof, is one of the specific things that has made me just so so glad I started blogging!

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