The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Renthia everything has a spirit and the spirits keep the world alive. But these are not kind, gentle spirits, these are blood thirsty spirits that hate humans. Each Kingdom in Renthia has a queen. The spirits are compelled to choose the queens so that they do not tear apart the world that they keep alive. The chosen queens are gifted with power from the spirits and are able to control the spirits, and at the same time keep the humans safe. Any young girl with the gift to call and control the spirits can be tested to see if she can become an heir. One of the heirs is chosen by the spirits to replace the queen when she dies. At the beginning of the book something goes terribly wrong and a whole village that should have been protected by the queen is destroyed. That village is Daleina's village and this is the story of her journey to become an heir.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Queen of Blood. In some ways it reminded me of reading Juliet Marillier's Shadowfell series and Naomi Novik's Uprooted. I was really drawn by the cover. I think it's just beautiful and it helped me visualize what the world in the book looked like. I loved the villages in the trees and the idea of travel on zip lines. How fun would that be?
Another thing I really liked is that the main character, Daleina is not the best at everything. She struggles to control the spirits for quite a while and it never comes natural to her the way it does to most of the other students. But Daleina is clever where some of the others are not and this serves her well. Although I really liked her, near the end Daleina did begin to annoy me a little with her guilt and her worry over a couple of things.[ Worrying and feeling guilty over her sister when she found out she had broken her leg was excessive and stupid. People break theirs legs sometimes, it happens. Why would she think she should be there to save her sister from every accident and injury? And the guilt over the choice she made to help assassinate the queen was understandable to a point, but the queen had taken the lives of a lot of innocent people and bargained with the spirits, who were the enemy, so I had no sympathy for her myself. I pretty much despised her from the get go. It was no surprise to me that she had a hand in the things that were happening. (hide spoiler)]
I also liked Ven somewhat, but I felt like he was a naive idiot about the woman he loved[ Queen Fara and I didn't see what he saw in her, especially after what she did to him in the beginning. I was disappointed that he would pick up his relationship with her again. Ven is one of those men who is blinded by the physical beauty a woman so much that he doesn't see that her heart is not what it should be (hide spoiler)]. In the beginning I was expecting Daleina and Ven to end up being love interests, it wasn't apparent how much older he was than her, later on though it seemed obvious that he was substantially older. The romance that does develop between Daleina and someone else is ok. I liked that the focus of the story wasn't on romance, but this romance was a bit underwhelming for me. Maybe even close to being insta-love. While the characters interacted with each other for a while (I'm not really sure how long it was, so it could have been a month or more. If it was said in the book I don't remember.), much of their interactions were just touched on or in the vein of him taking care of her so it felt underdeveloped to me.
Another thing about the book that I really liked was the friendship between the girls at the academy and the way they were portrayed. The one girl, Merecot who we could have been set up to hate ended up being more than that. I still want to know a lot more about her, what was driving her and how she ended up where she does in the end[ becoming the queen of the neighboring land so quickly. Is she going to be a threat to Aratay as Queen Fara feared? (hide spoiler)]. For a while there I wondered what the purpose of her character was.
I liked that Daleina's family was so supportive of her and that they shared in her hopes and dreams, even though it meant she wasn't there most of the time. They believed in her and in turn that enabled her to believe in herself. So many books are about broken families or families that have lost a parent and it was refreshing that that wasn't the case here. That being said, there is a lot of heartache and bloodshed in this book, but the bloodshed is mostly touched on without a lot of detail which makes it appropriate for YA readers even though this is marketed for adults.
This book also spans a number of years and at times I felt like things were skipped over a little too much. I doubt there will be significant jumps in time in subsequent books in the series, as this one served as an introduction to the world, and as a background for the characters and their motivations. Basically how they get from point A to point B. I am looking forward to reading what happens next.
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