Book Review: The Reluctant Queen

The Reluctant Queen (The Queens of Renthia #2)
Published By: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: July 4, 2017
Page Count: 368
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher
Young Adult/Adult - Fantasy
Review of Book #1: The Queen of Blood

Shortly after the tragedy that brought Daleina to the throne, she learns that she is suffering from a mysterious disease called The False Death. With each episode, Daleina dies for a brief period of time during which the nature spirits that inhabit her land are free to maim, kill, and destroy. The Champions are once again sent out into the world to search for suitable women to become Candidates and eventually Heirs to the throne of Aratay. Naelin is exactly the kind of woman the Champions want to find: powerful, mature, and already able to control each of the six kinds of spirits. Naelin, however, not only does not want to become an Heir, she tries to hide her talent from both humans and spirits. 

I relished my journey back to Renthia in The Reluctant Queen, particularly the characters. Seeing new aspects of favorite characters from the first book (The Queen of Blood) kept the story moving along at a good pace. In the second book, Ven is still relentless in training his new protégé, Naelin, but we get to see a little more of his softer side. More to the point, we actually get to see that he even has a softer side! His reactions to Naelin’s children are as believable as they are priceless, and I love the way his character progresses from the first book. 

Naelin made an excellent reluctant hero. As a mother of two, she only wants to keep her family safe from the predations of spirits. When Ven and Alet find her, Naelin has zero interest in powerful ambitions that she is certain will lead not only to her own death but to the deaths of the rest of her family. Because Naelin is older than the usual Candidates, Ven and Alet have a much harder time trying to manipulate her the way they might someone younger. I love that Naelin knows who she is and is unwilling to compromise on that. 

My one reservation about The Reluctant Queen is its occasional predictability. Although the world of Renthia with its malevolent spirits is unpredictable, some of the plot points and the identity of the ultimate villain were a little too easy to figure out. That said, both I and my teenage son* are immensely enjoying this series and looking forward to seeing how the political conflicts play out in the third book! 

 * Yes, son. You do not have to be female to enjoy this series! ☺

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. 

Sarah Beth Durst established a place of dark wonder in The Queen of Blood, and now the stakes are even higher as the threat to the Queen and her people grows both from within and beyond the borders of Aratay in this riveting second novel of the Queens of Renthia series.