Book: “The Blacksmith Queen” by G.A. Aiken
Publishing Info: Kensington, August 2019
Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley
Book Description: With the demise of the Old King, there’s a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king’s sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it’s all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals.
Luckily, Keeley doesn’t have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned …
Review: When every book is “The Something Queen” or another, it takes a bit for a title like that to draw my attention. But blacksmith. Huh, that was a new one! The description also sounded interesting. Something about a feud for the crown and…centaurs?
It all starts with a lot of death. First that of the King, and then the beginnings of a power struggle between his many sons, all vying for their right to wear the crown. Add to the mix a prophesy that a queen, not a king, shall be next to rule the land, and all sense of order goes out of the window. Keeley, a simple blacksmith, is happy enough to spend her days in her forge, blithely profiting from the sudden need for swords and war hammers. That is until her sister is drawn into it all, suspected of being the queen at the heart of the prophesy. A woman of action, Keeley is quick to jump to her sister’s aide, and grudgingly accepts the help of a band of wild warriors, among whom is the rough and tumble Caid, a man who is particularly intriguing.
What a bizarre story! Apparently the author has written other books focused on dragons, I think, that is set in the same world. But, typical me, I hadn’t read those going in. I don’t think it had a huge impact on my read of this story, and I was able to pretty quickly get a sense of the world and tone of the book. The thing that makes me refer to it as bizarre is the strange balance it seems to strike between urban fantasy and classic fantasy. Of the two, this would definitely lean towards the latter, given its medieval setting and such. There’s the fight over who will rule the kingdom, a magical prophesy, swords and warhammers.
But there were also tinges of urban fantasy in there with the style of writing and the sheer number of magical creatures all at once. There are demon wolves, witches, elves, dragons. And oh yeah, centaurs. This type of hodge podge assortment of classical fantasy creatures is often found in urban fantasy. Add to that the writing style that had a strong focus on humor and more than a little swearing, and it started to also feel very similar to a urban fantasy novel. And, of course, the brewing romance between a young woman and a man with some type of magical origins (typically vampires or werewolves, but we get something different here).
And of course, Keeley herself would fit right in amid most urban fantasy heroines. She’s badass, has a cool profession all of her own, and is loyal to the core, going to great lengths to protect those she loves. She’s also the sort of woman who easily inspires loyalty and camaraderie among those around her and wins over certain gruff men.
It was all…strange. I didn’t dislike it and there were definitely some laugh out loud moments. But it also didn’t fully connect as much as I would think it would. Everything that I just said above makes it sound like just my kind of thing. I think it was mostly the writing style. I struggled to reconcile the humorous, urban-fantasy-style writing with the type of story I was actually reading. And I’m not a stickler about language, but the swearing also started to feel like it was trying a bit too hard. There were also a sort of stilted feeling to some of the dialogue that made some of the characters sound almost childish at times.
Fans of urban fantasy and swords and staffs fantasy alike could find things to enjoy in this novel. If you like humor in your story, especially, than this is the book for you. The romance definitely takes a back seat to the rest of the story, however, so readers looking for more of that should take that into account.
Rating 7: A strange mix of two fantasy genres, but not quite mastering either.
“The Blacksmith Queen” is on this Goodreads list: “Books about Blacksmithing.”
Find “The Blacksmith Queen” at your library using WorldCat!