The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia #1)
By: Sarah Beth Durst
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase
An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure
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 . . .
But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.
With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.
I have been staring at this book for perhaps two years now, lol. I think it first caught my attention while I was browsing a bookstore in Denmark; the cover was lovely and the premise was intriguing, but then like most books I encounter, I don’t actually pick them up until a year after the fact, lol. And here we are, in desperate need to read something that’s not nursing school-related and therefore checking out this book at long last.
Things I liked about this book: the worldbuilding. The danger that this world and the spirits pose is absolutely palpable, you feel that the stakes are high right from the first page and that the seemingless beauty and innocence of nature is actually deadly to its inhabitants. That there’s this system in place to elevate someone to queen who can protect humanity and strike a deal with the spirits is quite interesting. Having said that, I wished there was a bit more explanation as to why the spirits choose a queen, why they are compelled to strike some kind of balance with humanity when they are bent on destroying humans as well; it’s weird and obviously they’re doing this for a reason, but I never quite got a sense as to why.
Also, and this is more of a personal reading preference, but I thought the story bogged down during the academy setting and the trials. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, you’ll enjoy the book through and through. Me, not so much, I kept waiting for the story to pop back to Ven’s perspective to see what was going on out there in the Borderlands or piecing together exactly what Queen Fara was up to. I liked the element in the story about what it takes to become queen, the ambition and personality that either would make you a good queen or a horrible one, and the sacrifices involved. I wished there was more on the politics a bit and what the courtiers’ role were–they had one scene and that was that, everything else seemed to stem from the queen and that was that–and I guess just more on the world itself.
Overall The Queen of Blood was an interesting read. I think its strength comes from the impression of danger that it shows from the first page and the stakes involved. The characters were all right, can’t say I was especially attached to them (though I am curious as to to see Ven’s relationship with his mother; they talk about it in the book and now I want his mother to make an appearance). Otherwise, looking forward to reading what happens in the second book!