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Book: “The Orchid Throne” by Jeffe Kennedy
Publishing Info: St. Martin’s Press, September 2019
Where Did I Get this Book: the library!
Book Description: As Queen of the island kingdom of Calanthe, Euthalia will do anything to keep her people free—and her secrets safe—from the mad tyrant who rules the mainland. Guided by a magic ring of her father’s, Lia plays the political game with the cronies the emperor sends to her island. In her heart, she knows that it’s up to her to save herself from her fate as the emperor’s bride. But in her dreams, she sees a man, one with the power to build a better world—a man whose spirit is as strong, and whose passion is as fierce as her own…
Conrí, former Crown Prince of Oriel, has built an army to overthrow the emperor. But he needs the fabled Abiding Ring to succeed. The ring that Euthalia holds so dear to her heart. When the two banished rulers meet face to face, neither can deny the flames of rebellion that flicker in their eyes—nor the fires of desire that draw them together. But in this broken world of shattered kingdoms, can they ever really trust each other? Can their fiery alliance defeat the shadows of evil that threaten to engulf their hearts and souls?
Review: I’ve read a few books by Jeffe Kennedy in the past, though I don’t think I’ve reviewed any of them for the blog? She typically writes fairly light-hearted romantic fantasy, and I’ve enjoyed her books in the past. I’ve seen her recent trilogy pop up on Edelweiss over the last few years and finally decided that now was the time to give her another go!
Decades before, a tyrant discovered a powerful, explosive force that allowed him to conquer all of the small kingdoms and force them into unwilling submission as part of his empire. Ruin and destruction is still remembered by the populous, and one young prince has had to reimagine himself as a warrior rebel while trapped in a slave mine. Slowly, he is now working his way towards his revenge on the emperor who destroyed his land and home. But one kingdom survived: the beautiful island of Calanthe. For its ruler welcomed the conquering empire when he came to their shores and promised his own daughter to be a future bride. Now grown, Euthalia works to maintain the tremulous independence that her father bought her land at the price of her hand. But time is running out and the emperor is coming to collect. Soon enough, a rebel prince and a ruling queen will cross paths, and what comes could change the course of the world.
As I said, it’s been a few years since I’ve read anything from this author. And while I remember liking her books, they were also of the sort that I enjoyed reading in the moment, but then quickly forgot. But either my opinion has shifted in the ensuing years or this trilogy is starting off on a stronger foot than Kennedy’s previous books. I really liked what this book had to offer! Most of all, I liked that while it definitely has a strong romance at its heart, the author wisely spends a significant amount of time firmly establishing her two leads as individuals in their own rights. They each have distinct histories and experience, particularly with how their countries and parents dealt with the cruel emperor who now rules them all. Due to these histories, they each have very different priorities when they meet each other, only grudgingly seeing eye to eye, if at all.
Conri’s story is the more straight-forward and familiar of the two with his arc of tragedy, followed by oppression, followed by revolution and then a single-minded focus on punishing the man who tore down his world as a child. But Euthalia’s story is more complex. Her father’s decision to not fight the conquering emperor lead to much derision and scorn by the other nations that fought him. But now, in the aftermath, Euthalia’s home is the only one that remains even partially independent. As such, Euthalia herself walks a fine line as the only remaining ruler, at once trying to protect her people while also delaying her wedding to the emperor. When Contri arrives on her doorstep, all she sees is bloodshed and ruin. And all Conri sees is a frivolous court ruled by a frivolous queen.
I also really liked the general tone of this story. While this world is one big history of tragedy, the story itself reads as largely light-hearted with a good amount of laugh-out-loud dialogue. I also particularly enjoyed the fact that Kennedy leaves reveals for both late in the book and, in some cases, for the next book entirely. There are mysteries to be still found about Euthalia’s homeland and why her father chose what he did. I have the second book loaded up on my Kindle already, and I’m excited to find out what’s to come. I definitely recommend this book to fans of fantasy romance and those looking for a lighter fantasy novel.
Rating 8: Like the lush magical kingdom at its heart, this book overflows with wonder and hidden power. Sure to please fantasy romance lovers everywhere!