Book: “A Broken Queen” by Sarah Kozloff
Publishing Info: Tor Books, March 2020
Where Did I Get this Book: from the publisher!
Book Description: Barely surviving her ordeal in Oromondo and scarred by its Fire Spirit, Cerulia is taken to a recovery house in Wyeland to heal from the trauma. In a ward with others who are all bound to serve each other, she discovers that not all scars are visible, and dying can be done with grace and acceptance.
While she would like to stay in this place of healing, will she ever be able to leave the peace she has found to re-take the throne?
Review: And we’re back with the third book already! Man, I’m really loving being able to read an entire series like this. In the “My Year with Jane Austen” series I’m writing, I’m getting near to reviewing the 1995 mini series version of “Pride and Prejudice.” It’s excellent for many reasons, but I’ll be honest, a large part of my love for it is simply that it’s nearly six hours long, meaning I can sink into one world with one set of characters for an extended period of time all once. It’s been a similar experience with this series.
Cerulia is badly injured, both physically by the scars left on her body by the flames, but also internally, unsure of her own role as a leader and queen going forward. In the quiet and peace of the healing ward where she is recovering, she is badly tempted to give up her quest of regaining her throne. The path has been harder than she ever thought, but she comes to see her responsibility to her people is greater than her own insecurities and fears. But without an army and with her sister poised to marry the son of her great enemy, Cerulia must work hard to remain free and in a position to challenge Matwyck for her throne.
I actually ended up liking this third book a bit more even than the first two, especially portions in the first half of the book while Cerulia is struggling to find her way again. For an individual who has been in exile for so long, jumping from one place to another, one entire identity to another, it’s no wonder that questions would arise about whether it is worth it and who she really is beneath all of the disguises. Through these reflections, she’s forced to confront her own insecurities and fears. She also come across the tried and true “with great responsibility” way of thinking, recognizing that her own struggles are ultimately not about what she has lost as a princess/queen forced from her home, but in the service of a greater duty to the country that’s been left behind. All of the people who don’t have the option to flee and re-create lives for themselves with the help of magical abilities and a grand heritage.
After this period of reflection, the action picks up again with Cerulia returning home, reuniting with her foster family, and facing the stark reality of the challenges ahead of her on her journey to the throne. There are also some interesting discussions regarding the necessity of a queen at all. It was fun seeing Cerulia go full circle and finally return to her home and her foster family, and it’s a great set-up for the final conflict to come in the last book.
But, with the increased interest I had in Cerulia’s story, I found myself feeling more disconnected from the other characters’ portions of the story. While there have been some moments where these other characters’ perspectives have added strength and context to the story, at this point, as we near the end of the series, their portions felt like more of a distraction than anything. I was always eager to return to Cerulia’s story and found myself more and more impatient with any breaks in the momentum of her plot line.
Lastly, I want to throw out a brief kudos to the cover art for this series! I always like covers that don’t include models, so that was a great start. But mostly I think the understated changes to the crown and how it reflects the action of each story was very clever. The first cover had a crown that was literally hidden behind vines. In the second, we see a crown being consumed by flames, a direct nod to Cerulia’s own perilous experience with fire. And here we have the broken remains of that ordeal, cracked but not destroyed. The final cover, of course, finally brings the crown to it’s completed state: regal and whole, free of damage or concealment. It’s a very simple little theme, but I think it works perfectly for this story.
Only one more month to go until we wrap this all up! In the meantime, make sure to enter the giveaway for a finished copy of “A Broken Queen.”
Rating 8: Poignant reflections on the responsibility of privilege and the definitions of self set a solid foundation for the final book to come.
“A Broken Queen” is a newer title so it isn’t on many Goodreads lists, but it is on “Upcoming 2020 SFF with female leads or co-leads.”
Find “A Broken Queen” at your library using WorldCat!