Serena’s Review: “The War of Two Queens”

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Book: “The War of Two Queens” by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publishing Info: Blue Box Press, March 2022

Where Did I Get this Book: bought the ebook

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: From the desperation of golden crowns…

Casteel Da’Neer knows all too well that very few are as cunning or vicious as the Blood Queen, but no one, not even him, could’ve prepared for the staggering revelations. The magnitude of what the Blood Queen has done is almost unthinkable.

And born of mortal flesh…

Nothing will stop Poppy from freeing her King and destroying everything the Blood Crown stands for. With the strength of the Primal of Life’s guards behind her, and the support of the wolven, Poppy must convince the Atlantian generals to make war her way—because there can be no retreat this time. Not if she has any hope of building a future where both kingdoms can reside in peace.

A great primal power rises…

Together, Poppy and Casteel must embrace traditions old and new to safeguard those they hold dear—to protect those who cannot defend themselves. But war is only the beginning. Ancient primal powers have already stirred, revealing the horror of what began eons ago. To end what the Blood Queen has begun, Poppy might have to become what she has been prophesied to be—what she fears the most.

As the Harbinger of Death and Destruction.

Previously Reviewed: “From Blood and Ash” and “A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire” and “The Crown of Gilded Bones”

Review: This was another massive book, so as much as I wanted to get my review out as close to the release day as possible, here we are, a few weeks later. It was partly the length. But it’s also partly that I (and a lot of others, it seems!) had a lot of thoughts and feelings about this book, so it’s taken a bit to get my mind in order with what exactly I wanted to say about this book. But, be warned, there will be spoilers for the book in this review, so read on with that in mind. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Casteel finds himself in the last place he ever wanted to be: trapped in a dungeon and in the grasp of the cruel Blood Queen. But he’d do it all again, at least Poppy is free out in the world. For her part, Poppy is lost without Casteel. Newly made queen of a people and country that barely know her, let alone trust her, she knows only that she must save Casteel as soon as possible. She is joined by Kieran, Casteel’s best friend who hurts almost as much as she does with Casteel’s loss. Together, they will work to save their King and overthrow the Blood Queen once and for all.

The way I’m going to review this book is as follows: I’m going to start with a review of the objective state of this book, then move out to my own interpretations, and then briefly discuss the fan reaction. So, first off, my general impression of this book. Anyone who has read my reviews of these books before will note that I’ve always been hesitant to say much in favor of the general quality of the writing and world-building in these books. They’ve all been bloated, poorly edited behemoths of books. I’m not sure if it’s because of the popularity of the series or what, but it seems that the publisher has taken a very hands-off approach to editing this series. This book showed many of the same flaws.

The pacing was snail-paced, with very little happening for huge chunks of time. What we do learn about the world comes through exposition. And there are so many “reveals” about the world and Poppy’s own heritage that it is well past the point of ridiculousness. I will say that I thought there were more actual grammatical/spelling errors in this book than the others. But for the most part, if you’ve read the other books, you’ll know the flaws you’re working with and none of them are improved in this book. Four books in, these flaws of bad world-building and endless secrets begin to feel as if the author just never planned her series. At some point, the story needs to move past the “discovery” phase and into the “action” phase. Either way, none of this is truly shocking. Indeed, I’ve said repeatedly that I’m really only there for the romance. And that’s where we get to the subjective portion.

This book gives us Casteel’s perspective for the first time in the series. And I think this was actually part of the problem. What should have been an exciting addition (finally the heroes perspective!) was actually a flaw that made what was happening in the rest of the story all the more uncomfortable and unlikable. We have Casteel’s thoughts almost entirely focused on Poppy and how glad he is that he is the one locked up and suffering instead of her. And Poppy? Whelp, she’s off sharing a bed with naked Kieran, developing feelings for him, and getting asked why her husband’s best friend is acting like her husband by family friends. Her answer? “It’s complicated.” Yeaahh, it reads pretty bad and checks all my marks for emotional cheating in my book (honestly, bordering on actual cheating with that naked sleeping scene). On there own, these actions are pretty condemnable from a partner who is in an established exclusive relationship. It’s all the worse when contrasted with Casteel’s thoughts of her. So, subjectively, this ruined most of the series for me. Like I said, I was here for the romance, and this effectively crushed that. Even when Poppy and Casteel are reunited, Poppy’s mentally bemoaning Kieran not being around. It’s uncomfortable, unlikable, and decidedly NOT what I want from my “soulmates” romance stories.

And this last bit gets to the general fans reactions and the author’s approach with this series. Look, we here at The Library Ladies believe in “Every book its reader, and every reader their book.” But the converse of that is true: some people make choices of what to read based on what is and what is not in their books. For romance readers, this is almost even more important than for general fiction readers. There is an unspoken but strong understanding between the author and the readers of what they are there for, be it happily ever afters, smut, etc. And this book was marketed, spoken about by the author (she repeatedly said that Cas and Poppy were the main/only relationship for the last several years), and then set up for THREE BOOKS as an exclusive soulmates-style romance.

If the author had wanted to write a polyamory romance, that’s fine! There are readers for it, and I’m sure many would have gobbled it up! Many are probably already loving the series anyways! The problem is what I said before: that’s not what this series set out to be (or at least there’s no rational interpretation of the previous books or author’s statements that could lead you to thinking otherwise). So when devoted fans get to book four and see what looks pretty clearly like emotional cheating and then a polyamory relationship, they’re going to feel misled and cheated by the author. What’s more, I’ll go as far as to say that had the author set out from the beginning to write a polyamory book (beyond the fact that she failed to truly set that up in any real way), this was a truly bad way to go about it. I can’t imagine anyone from that community would like the parallel drawn here between their accepting and consensual love with the kind of emotional cheating that Poppy and Kieran were getting up to behind Casteel’s back and without his knowledge. This is not good representation and instead plays into very negative stereotypes about the entire lifestyle.

This was a huge disappointment for me. Objectively, it has the same flaws as we’ve seen in the rest of the series. Subjectively, the romance was the only reason I was really still here, and that was badly damaged/ruined by the emotional cheating from Poppy. And thirdly, the author seems to have broken a social contract with her readership by creating a soulmates romance story, publicly calling it such for years and writing three books setting that up, and then blindsiding them with a poor representation of a polyamory relationship at best or emotional infidelity at worst.

I’ll probably check out the reviews of the next book when it is released, but I’m probably out. These books were huge time commitments, and I’m the type of romance reader who reads for the happily ever after. And emotional infidelity isn’t it, friends.

Rating 4: A case study in how to turn your rabid fan base against you and misunderstand why they’re there in the first place.

Reader’s Advisory:

“A War of Two Queens” is on several lists, but I think it most deserves to be on this one: Most Disappointing Sequels/Prequels.

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