Book: “A Queen in Hiding” by Sarah Kozloff
Publishing Info: Tor Books, January 2020
Where Did I Get this Book: from the publisher!
Book Description: Orphaned, exiled and hunted, Cérulia, Princess of Weirandale, must master the magic that is her birthright, become a ruthless guerilla fighter, and transform into the queen she is destined to be.
But to do it she must win the favor of the spirits who play in mortal affairs, assemble an unlikely group of rebels, and wrest the throne from a corrupt aristocracy whose rot has spread throughout her kingdom.
Review: I think I would have been interested in this book purely based on the description. Not super unique, but the kind of thing that I generally go for. But when I looked into it more, the “binge style” publication plan for the series as a whole is what really sold me: all four will be coming out within a month of each other! I love nothing more than binge watching a good show and if I’m re-reading a beloved series, I often “binge” that as well, reading all books in the series one after another. But it all still came down to how I felt about this first book, and overall…ok?
The Queens of Weirandale all have had abilities given to them as a birthright. As they age, these unique gifts make themselves known. But Cerulia’s are late in coming, not yet identified into mid-childhood. And then, even that becomes a minor concern as she is forced into hiding, now orphaned and alone. As she grows, she must discover the power within her, not only her magical abilities, but those of a leader who must now reclaim her throne.
I both enjoyed this book and struggled with it. The opening chapter is amazing. It’s only a few pages long, but the style of writing is strong and compelling, laying the groundwork for a mystery that readers long to solve and a new fantasy world that one is eager to dive into. However, in the next few chapters it feels like the brakes are laid on big time.
The book turns out to be a very slow read, spending a lot of time in council meetings and introducing a plethora of characters. This all works to make the book read like a fantasy epic, but it also fights against the time most readers need to become fully attached to a main character in the beginning of the story. We have a few chapters for Cerulia and her mother early in the book, and both are immediately interesting and hooked me in. But as the story continued, it broke away from these characters more and more often, introducing a whole host of new characters, many of whom I struggled to care about. Like I said, it made the book feel as if it was fighting with itself or was in such a rush to expand its scale outwards that it left readers without enough time to fully invest in any of it.
But whenever we were back with Cerulia herself, I really enjoyed the story. While somewhat familiar, that of a lost queen working to regain her throne against a group that overthrew her family’s reign, there were enough interesting aspects thrown in that kept it feeling fresh. I also liked the fact that the magical elements of the story are used sparingly. This is a human drama, often focusing on the political machinations of various parties on a grand scale and then zeroing back in on small, but important, moments between individuals. Cerulia’s own abilities, once discovered, are used sparingly and there aren’t many others with magical abilities either.
As I said in my notes for the giveaway, one of the more intriguing aspects of this series is the “binge-style” reading that the publisher is aiming for, releasing all four books in four months. Judging by this one, however, these will be long books. This one comes in just under 500 pages. For some readers, that could be several weeks of reading right there. So one has to be fairly invested in this series (or a fast reader) to really want to commit four months to this large series. It is reassuring to know that they will all be out (not leaving readers waiting years for news of the next installment), so even if you can’t keep up with them as they come out this spring, they will still be there when you do get to them. I will likely continue on, but I wasn’t quite as caught up as I hoped to be and don’t necessarily feel the urge to binge read them myself. You might find that you do, however, so make sure to enter to win a paperback copy of this book!
Rating 7: A bit slow and very long, this was still an interesting start to a new series that will all be published shortly!
“A Queen in Hiding” is on this Goodreads list: “Upcoming 2020 SFF with female leads or co-leads.”
Find “A Queen in Hiding” at the library using WorldCat!