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I Belong

Review: The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

Title: The Reluctant Queen

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Queens of Renthia (Book #2)

Publication Date: July 4, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 360 Pages

ISBN-10: 006241335X (Harper Voyager)

ISBN-13: 978-0062413352 (Harper Voyager)

Reviewed by: Kristie


Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .
And those spirits want to kill you.
It’s the first lesson that every Renthian learns.

Not long ago, Daleina used her strength and skill to survive those spirits and assume the royal throne. Since then, the new queen has kept the peace and protected the humans of her land. But now for all her power, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she leaves the world before a new heir is ready, the spirits that inhabit her beloved realm will run wild, destroying her cities and slaughtering her people.

Naelin is one such person, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Queen—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her world is her two children, her husband, and the remote village tucked deep in the forest that is her home, and that’s all she needs. But when Ven, the Queens champion, passes through the village, Naelin’s ambitious husband proudly tells him of his wife’s ability to control spirits—magic that Naelin fervently denies. She knows that if the truth of her abilities is known, it will bring only death and separation from those she loves.

But Ven has a single task: to find the best possible candidate to protect the people of Aratay. He did it once when he discovered Daleina, and he’s certain he’s done it again. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.

Sarah Beth Durst established a place of dark wonder in The Queen of Blood, and now the stakes are even higher as the threat to the Queen and her people grows both from within and beyond the borders of Aratay in this riveting second novel of the Queens of Renthia series.

Quick & Dirty: Creative, dark fantasy world full of heartbreak and strong-willed female characters.

Opening Sentence: Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow…

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst continues a story that is heartbreaking, heartwarming, and terrifying all at once. The second novel in the Queens of Renthia series follows the story set in the first novel The Queen of Blood. I recommend having read the first novel since it follows all the characters established in the first novel and continues to add more characters into this ever expanding world. This novel can still be read as a standalone but I wouldn’t recommend it.

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting in this novel since it straight up says that Deleina is dying in the synopsis. I thought we’d be skipping a lot of her life and the characters that I grew to really like in The Queen of Blood instead I find that only six months have passed since Deleina was crowned queen of Aratay. She is losing control of the spirits and needs to find another heir that is powerful enough to reign them in. Champion Ven has been tasked by Deleina to find an heir and he doesn’t have that much time to find an acceptable candidate.

Naelin has spent all of her life hiding her powers. She has seen the death that comes from being able to control spirits and refuses to use her power until the one day she is forced to use her power to protect her kids and put her on the radar of the Champion. She is a wife and mother and she is content with her life in the country. She wants nothing to do with Ven. Ven knows Naelin is the only viable person who can protect the kingdom so he puts her through some awful testing in order to get her to come with him to the capital.

I found the first half of this book heartbreaking because of Deleina’s and Naelin’s situations and because both of them don’t want the futures that have been foreseen for them. Honestly, most of the book was a bit heartbreaking because most characters where going through situations that may not have a good ending and some were having to compromise in order to get what they wanted.

The world in Renthia is terrifying. This is definitely not a world I would want to live in but it is a world that I don’t mind reading. The Queens control the spirits constantly from eating/killing the humans because the spirits are hostile and don’t like humans at all. The kingdom of Aratay is tree spirit based so a lot of the people live in trees to keep away from the predators on the ground. Death is an everyday occurrence in this world no matter how well the Queens try to protect their subjects.

Deleina has grown to be a good queen in her short reign. Naelin is a wonderful grown-up character. She sticks to what she believes and doesn’t take Ven’s crap, she likes to call him on it. I really liked Naelin and I think her grounded/grown up years will help with controlling the spirits. Plus, I like the new developments with Ven.

The Reluctant Queen follows several different points of view throughout the novel. All stories are told through the third person POV. I really enjoy the writing style in all its wonder, gloriousness and terribleness (the world that is, not the writing). This novel definitely had more of an adult feel over the young adult feel of The Queen of Blood. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and I am invested in this story. I cannot wait for the final book in the trilogy.

Notable Scene:

Naelin wanted to run out of the room screaming.

She forced herself to stand still.

She felt the spirits swirl around her, too close. An earth spirit cozied up to her ankle. A tree spirit ran along her arm. An air spirit entwined itself in her hair. She felt its tiny feet on her scalp. Sweat prickled over her skin, and Naelin wiped her palms on her skirt. Her mouth was dry, and she felt her heart beating so hard in her chest that it hurt. There wasn’t enough air. The spirits were sucking away all the oxygen. She began to gasp for breath.

“Calm,” Ven said.

“Doesn’t help,” she reminded him.

“Just breathe.”

“Trying.” She forced herself to take a slow breath and then exhale it. There wasn’t less air. It only felt that way. The spirits pressed closer to her. She felt their claws touch her skin, dragging along the surface without breaking it. She was aware of her blood pulsing through her and how easily they could spill it.

The Queens of Renthia:

1. The Queen of Blood

2. The Reluctant Queen

FTC Advisory: Sarah Beth Durst graciously provided me with a copy of The Reluctant Queen. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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