Serena’s Review: “For the Throne”

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Book: “For the Throne” by Hannah Whitten

Publishing Info: Orbit, June 2022

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher!

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

Book Description: The First Daughter is for the Throne. The Second Daughter is for the Wolf…

Red and the Wolf have finally contained the threat of the Old Kings but at a steep cost. Red’s beloved sister Neve, the First Daughter is lost in the Shadowlands, an inverted kingdom where the vicious gods of legend have been trapped for centuries and the Old Kings have slowly been gaining control. But Neve has an ally–though it’s one she’d rather never have to speak to again–the rogue king Solmir.

Solmir wants to bring an end to the Shadowlands and he believes helping Neve may be the key to its destruction. But to do that, they will both have to journey across a dangerous landscape in order to find a mysterious Heart Tree, and finally to claim the gods’ dark, twisted powers for themselves.

Previously Reviewed: “For the Wolf”

Review: As some dedicated blog readers may remember, last summer was the season of the “Little Red Riding Hood” re-tellings for me. I think I read three? Even more amazing, I really liked two of them, and didn’t even hate the third. But best for me is the fact that the one I liked the most has a sequel! And here we are.

After Red and her Wolf finally managed to solve the mystery of the Wilderwood, their part of the story seemed complete. But the loss of Red’s sister Neve to the underworld has been a blow Red can’t accept, even if Neve unintentionally contributed to the darkness of the Wilderwood curse. As she works to free her sister, Neve wanders the shadow land below trying to regain her life above. On her journey she is accompanied by the mysterious Solmir, a man who was once a king and who now works to overthrow the dark kings that remain. As their journeys parallel each other, one above and one below, Neve and Red must come together to save the fate of their world.

While the first book was very much Red’s story, we still had a good number of chapters from Neve’s perspective. Enough so that while Red sees Neve’s actions as not only counterproductive to the magic of the Wilderwood, but actually bringing about a dark future, we are in Neve’s own mind enough to understand her motivations and the fears that drove many of her actions. And while Red’s story is neatly wrapped up, Neve’s is left on a definite cliff-hanger with her trapped in the shadow land with the king Solmir, whom she had only recently discovered had been posing as one of her good friends for much of the story.

This book picks up immediately where that one leaves off. And like the first book, the story is split between several characters. Nominally, this is primarily Neve’s story, but we also had a good number of chapters from Red’s perspective, as well as a dash of chapters from Raffe’s perspective, Neve’s betrothed who is left to rule in her stead. While I think the multiple POVs worked for the most part, I also think they were not as well balanced as the POVs were in the first book. There, it was obvious that it was Red’s story and we spent the vast majority of our time on her story. This allowed readers to fully connect with her and invest themselves in her romance.

Here, however, simply by the fact that we know Red so well, more often than not her story seemed to fight for the spotlight over Neve’s story in Neve’s own book. It was an awkward balance, because obviously I loved getting to spend more time with Red and Eammon. But I was sorry to see that the time given to this couple seemed to detract from Neve’s story and romance. What’s more frustrating with this was that I really enjoyed Neve’s arc, the unique magic/creatures of the shadow lands, and the slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers romance she develops with Solmir. Honestly, as much as I like Raffe’s story, I wish that had been left out. I think right there, that small increase in page time would have better balanced Red and Neve’s story and let me more fully feel as if this was truly the latter’s book.

I really liked the exploration of souls and what it means to be a monster. After the events of the first book, Neve has a lot of inner work to do to understand why she took the actions she did. Beyond that, however, her journey is one of self-acceptance, being able to embrace her weaknesses as well as her strengths. And, more importantly, knowing which is which. In this way, her inner journey is paralleled by Solmir’s own story. Their romance was very well paired, but I do wish that we were able to spend a bit more time devoted to their relationship. These two were always so caught up in magical fights (albeit great ones!), that it seemed like their romance kind of sprang up quickly at the end.

I also really enjoyed the shadow lands, the Old Gods, and the dark kings. There was a lot of tricky magical work going on here, and I was always excited to turn the page and see what was coming next. Again, this is where the sheer number of pages devoted to Red and Raffe’s much more straight-forward, less exciting journeys began to feel frustrating. However, I really liked the way that Red’s and Neve’s magic twisted together in the end. There were a few good twists here. I do question some of the elements of how things finally worked out (it was also a bit confusing to read through); I think that some parts of the solution to the overall mystery counteracted some of the previously established stakes.

Overall, I think that fans of the first book will really enjoy this. I’ve whined a decent amount about the page time given to Red, but I also really liked seeing more of her, so it’s kind of a double-edged sword there. And I think many fans will likely feel the same, or just be all onboard for the Red/Eammon action. Reading the first book is definitely necessary, however. Even going in only a year later left me feeling a bit confused in the beginning, having to remind myself of exactly what the history of this world was.

Rating 8: A great follow-up story, though the balance between the primary and secondary protagonists did feel a bit off.

Reader’s Advisory:

“For the Throne” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Can’t Wait Sci-Fi/Fantasy of 2022 and Upcoming 2022 SFF Books With Female Leads or Co-Leads.

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