The Reluctant Queen
(The Queens of Renthia #2)
By Sarah Beth Durst
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: YA Fantasy
Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . . And those spirits want to kill you.
It’s the first lesson that every Renthian learns.
Not long ago, Daleina used her strength and skill to survive those spirits and assume the royal throne. Since then, the new queen has kept the peace and protected the humans of her land. But now for all her power, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she leaves the world before a new heir is ready, the spirits that inhabit her beloved realm will run wild, destroying her cities and slaughtering her people.
Naelin is one such person, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Queen—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her world is her two children, her husband, and the remote village tucked deep in the forest that is her home, and that’s all she needs. But when Ven, the Queens champion, passes through the village, Naelin’s ambitious husband proudly tells him of his wife’s ability to control spirits—magic that Naelin fervently denies. She knows that if the truth of her abilities is known, it will bring only death and separation from those she loves.
But Ven has a single task: to find the best possible candidate to protect the people of Aratay. He did it once when he discovered Daleina, and he’s certain he’s done it again. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.
*As always this is a review for a sequel. I will try to omit potential spoilers, but recommend visiting at a later time if you have yet to read the first in the series and plan to do so. You can find my review for the first book The Queen of Blood here.
I only recently read and reviewed the The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia #1) in eager anticipation of exploring a new series. I had this lovely arc in my hands and simply knew it was going to be worth my time. While appropriate for the YA audience, an ensemble of well developed characters, plot and world building continues to provide an experience that I feel can be adequately appreciated by all.
Now the Queen of Aratay, Daleina discovers that she has the False Death. Now she struggles to conceal a secret that is killing her and threatening her country. She must find a successor to the throne immediately. But what happens when the only person who can possibly help refuses to do so? Naelin has hidden her powers in fear of losing her quiet, content life with her children. But now she may have to give up everything she has fought for to protect that very life. With an impending invasion, time if of the essence.
The Reluctant Queen is a rare case of a sequel surpassing its predecessor. Packed with a sense of urgency and delivered with a few remarkable new characters, it expands on an intricate story of magic and survival in the best of ways. The plot is familiar but more evolved. We still have a queen who is responsible for maintaining the balance of life and spirits. Now that element has been beautifully heightened by Daleina’s failing health and the dire need for an heir.
Nailen is absolutely stellar in terms of female protagonist. She offers a unique facet with her older age and two children that I found slightly relatable and at times highly admirable. Her motherly instincts drive her and ultimately prove to be her true strength. Forthright in her feelings against training to be an heir, she is humble and supplies a refreshing perspective on life in Aratay. Familiar characters also make a welcomed return as Ven is tasked with finding a new candidate and the very queen he trained is facing uncertainty.
The world building progresses as we are given a glimpse into the castle and throne room. This provides further exploration into how reliant life on Renthia is to having a queen. The magic in The Reluctant Queen continues to prove its worth with a direct yet imaginative system that focuses on nature and its manipulation. I hold a fondness for the emphasis of female power in this book. I love that the magic is gender exclusive. While I am aware that aspect might not fall on the favor of all, I felt it enhanced the female leads and provided an extra dose of originality.
The writing is all that I have come to expect from my time with The Queen of Blood. A fluid yet light prose creates a fast paced read that never feels too dense or complex yet manages to convey a story full of depth. Again, I am recommending this series to all fans of fantasy and magic. My anticipation to continue exploring this series easily rivals that of any past encounters during the last year or two!
*I would like to thank the publisher for this copy. This review is my own, unbiased opinion.