Serena’s Review: “Kingsbane”

40523458Book: “Kingsbane” by Claire Legrand

Publishing Info: Sourcebooks Fire, May 2019

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher

Book Description: Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist.

Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity’s long-awaited savior. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana’s power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted—by embracing her mother’s power, or rejecting it forever.

Previously Reviewed: “Furyborn”

Review: As my review above indicates, I had some problems with the first book in this trilogy. But, as the book was so well-received, to a certain extent I know these were a lot of personal preferences, mainly having to do with the decision to include a prologue that, I felt, gave away a bit too much of the story, if read carefully. So, with that in mind, when I received an ARC in the mail from the publisher, I decided to give it a go. And, while I still struggled with aspects of the story, I also enjoyed it more than the first.

Rielle and Eliana both are thought to be the Sun Queen, though Eliana does have the dark history of her mother, Rielle’s, decent into darkness to back up her claim. But so far these titles and prophesies have brought nothing but danger and challenges, one after another. Eliana must bear the heavy load of her mother’s legacy, worrying constantly that she will follow in her footsteps, fearing her own powers. And Rielle, centuries earlier, must walk a tight line between protecting her kingdom and spying on the angels who threaten them, all while becoming increasingly intrigued by one of them, the mysterious Corien.

Having the world and writing set-up (alternating POVs from the past and the future) already established definitely helped me enjoy this book more than the first. If I worked very hard, I could even try and put the initial prologue out of my head and enjoy the story as it is. I’m particularly intrigued by the ongoing mystery of which Queen is really the Sun Queen and which is the one who turns to evil. While it feels fairly established as Rielle, I’m still on the look-out for a trick up this author’s sleeve in the eleventh hour.

As far as characters go, I still have enjoyed Eliana’s story more than Rielle’s. Part of this might have something to do with the timing of my read of this book. Frankly, I’m a bit exhausted by the “power hungry queens” in fantasy stories right now (I think the reason why is probably pretty obvious). This is definitely not the book’s fault. But timing aside, I do think that Rielle’s decision making and thirst for power made her a bit less appealing for me. At my heart, I always will prefer to the straight-forward hero character over an anti-hero. I also wasn’t a fan of the strange love triangle that was being built up between Rielle, Corien and Audric. I didn’t feel like there was enough established to really justify Rielle’s interest in Corien.

I do very much enjoy the general writing style and world-building of these books. The story feels expansive and epic, and the writing effortlessly flows between witting dialogue and engrossing descriptions of action and setting. If only the characters who populated it all were a bit better. The book is pretty long, however, and I do think some editing could have been in order to tidying it all up.

I also had some questions about the marketing of this book as YA. There are some pretty intense scenes in this book, particularly in the romance plot line between Corien and Rielle. This is by no means coming from a “the children aren’t ready for this!!” place, but more a general question about fantasy fiction and current marketing practices. It almost feels like a lot of good fantasy works are being relegated to YA regardless of that being the appropriate place for them simply because YA fantasy is booming. And look, I love that so many fantasy titles are coming out in YA. But I’m also starting to feel like there is an equal and growing lack of fantasy coming out in adult fiction for the very same reason.

I would place good money on the fact that several titles are pitched to publishers as adult fantasy fiction and then are sent back with the note “Great! But let’s make the protagonists teenagers so we can market it to YA, since that’s where this stuff sells!” It’s too bad, because a lot of adults want to read good fantasy fiction (again, look at the recent epic fantasy TV show that just concluded. Clearly, there is an adult interest in these types of stories). And books like this read as if they could just as easily, and perhaps more appropriately, be marketed as adult fantasy. Teenagers can pick up an adult fantasy novel just as easily as an adult can pick up a YA fantasy title. So maybe we can try giving each their due based on the story itself, and not marketing tactics. A girl can dream.

Having the characters and world set up in the first book, overall I felt as if I could sink more fully into this read and enjoy it. I still had some struggles, but some of that can be laid at the feet of the timing of my read more than any real flaw on the book’s part. Fans of the first book are sure to love this one, and those who may have had middling feelings might want to check it out as well, as I do think everything was strengthened, if not perfected, in this sequel.

Rating  7: An overall improvement on the first book!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Kingsbane” is a newer title, so it isn’t on many Goodreads lists, but it is on: “Books Marketed as Young adult that might be New Adult, Adult Fiction.”

Find “Furyborn” at your library using WorldCat!

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