Review of The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

32600602The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst. ★★★★

While you can theoretically read The Reluctant Queen as a stand alone, I suggest reading Queen of Blood first.

Six months ago, Daleina became queen after all the other viable heirs were killed by the spirits. Now, she’s dying. A diagnosis of a fatal disease gives her three months to find an heir — but none of the girls in the academies are ready. Ven ventures outside of the academies to search for a potential heir in the wilderness and small villages, and he finds Naelin, a middle-aged mother who has no desire to use her great power. While she may be reluctant, she’s the only hope for an heir strong enough to protect the country from the bloodthirsty nature spirits.

First off, I want to talk about how much I like Naelin’s character. She’s outside the mold of the typical fantasy heroine, and it’s wonderfully refreshing. I generally want more diversity in fantasy female leads, including things like age and parental status. Surely books can acknowledge that women still have stories worth telling once they hit thirty? In Naelin’s case, her being middle-aged and a mother worked so well for her chosen one plot line. It gave her so much to lose and so much to fight for. I think she’ll be one of the more memorable characters of the series because of it. Oh, and like Daliena in The Queen of Blood, Naelin had a romance subplot but it was pretty minimal.

Also like it’s predecessor, The Reluctant Queen includes multiple significant female characters. Obviously, both Daliena and Naelin are important, but the book also has a female poison master and Daliena’s younger sister as playing influential roles in the plot. Plus, Merecot returns! And she’s ambitious as ever. I want to know more about what she’s up to, but I think that’ll have to wait until book three.

The Reluctant Queen is a fast read. The story’s pretty light and the prose isn’t dense, part of what makes it a good YA crossover. The pacing’s such that I finished it in little over a day. It’s got some plot twists I didn’t see coming and others that I picked up the clues for. Overall, it was another fun read from Sarah Beth Durst. I can’t wait for the third book!


I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Pyo says:

    It definitely was on my to-read list and reviews so far have been pretty good, and my primary fear that Daleina is entirely dismissed as a character is apparently unwarranted, but, huh, it’s friggin’ expensive for this type of novel. Tsk.

    Doesn’t help that I’m not sure I’m buying the praise for Naelin quite to this extend. I agree that older protagonists are rarer than younger ones, but she isn’t that old, and having a female character’s motivation revolve around being a mother/protecting a child isn’t exactly anything new either (last dozen or so novels I read it came up at least 3 times, by my count). But of course I haven’t read it yet, and what matters most is how exactly it’s done …

    1. Yes, it isn’t that rare for a female character’s motivations to revolve around being a mother… but it is rare for one of those characters to be the protagonist. Usually they’re the protagonist’s mother, who’s likely to die tragically to provide character motivation. I’m not sure I’ve read enough books with mothers as protagonists to even come up with a top ten list. There are some where the protagonist has a child over the course of a series, but the only other I can think of where she starts out a mother is Boneshaker.

      1. Pyo says:

        Broken Earth, In The Time of the Sixth Sun, Beyond Cloud Nine (sister’s child), Fionn mac Cumhaill (adopted, sort of), Sisterhood of Suns (adult child), Ardulum (picked up), The Long Dark (2nd protagonist), Chaos of the Covenant, Seven-Point Star (picked up), etc.
        And that’s excluding Daughter of the Empire, Aeon 14, Skindancer etc where the children appear later in the series but plays a major role, those like Duchess of Terra where it’s a minor component overall, or Nell McCraw, Shaken and so on which are contemporary and not scifi/fantasy. And those I haven’t read, like Star Nomad and whatever the traitor-space-marine-series-thing is called.

        Of course it’s not always the same thing. And I absolutely agree that it’s rarer than some 16-22 year old girl setting out into the world, but I’d probably call it the third most common motivation for female protagonists. After vengeance for parents/husbands/brothers etc.
        But obviously I can only go by what I have read, no idea what the overall statistics say 😉

        Anyway. Just saying it’s not a big draw for me. I’d probably have snapped it up despite my price complaints if the second protagonist were like Merecot – ambitious, “part of the plot because she wants to be and not because something forced her to”. Because that is seriously rare 😉

      2. Broken Earth! How did I forget about that one? I’m not familiar with the others you mentioned, although now that I think about it, the protagonists with younger siblings to protect are sort of similar. And there’s tons of those.

  2. Pyo says:

    You haven’t missed too much 😉 Some are OK, but they are largely just some random indie publications. Chaos of the Covenant is for me the typical case: the child is back home on Earth, and the mother is “persuaded” to go on dangerous jobs so one day she can reunite with her daughter. But the child never appears (or at least not in the first novels), it’s basically a plot device to get the heroine going. I’m not too fond of that sort of thing, but of course the plot needs to start with something …

  3. The first book was like a surprise hit for me. I remember thinking “So what’s so special about this?” in the intro, but by the end I was completely hooked. I’m definitely planning on checking out this sequel!

    1. Yay! I hope you like this sequel as much as I did. 🙂

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