The 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.