by Emily R. King
Series: The Hundredth Queen #1
Published on June 1, 2017 by Skyscape
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.
But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.
Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.
In Emily R. King’s thrilling fantasy debut, an orphan girl blossoms into a warrior, summoning courage and confidence in her fearless quest to upend tradition, overthrow an empire, and reclaim her life as her own.
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I heard a lot of great things about this book prior to reading and so I was expecting a bit too much from it, I think. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed it and would recommend The Hundredth Queen to any YA fantasy fans out there, but it didn’t completely WOW me like I had expected it to.
Kalinda has been sheltered her entire life and now, at eighteen, must fight for that life in order to wed Rajah Tarek who she neither loves or feels any fondness for. But in this world women must rely completely on men to have any sort of peace or safety. It’s not a fun time if you’re a woman and I think King tackled that well in terms of showing that this idea is wrong and that women have as much to offer the world as men.
I liked Kali’s character but I don’t think I ever fully connected with her, as though I was reading about this person from a far-off time and while some of the emotions came through, I wasn’t immersed. She’s a strong heroine and has several facets to her background that are slowly unraveled over the course of the book. I love her friendship with Jaya, something formed over time prior to the story’s beginning and an element that continues to push through the plot and drive some of her major decisions. On the other hand, I wasn’t big on the romance between her and Deven. I never felt there was any sort of bond formed there other than a bit of lust so it seemed unnecessary. Looking at Kali as a whole, I liked her but she was a bit bland.
The same could be said for the other characters, including the more prominent ones like Deven. But I did like his character, much like I liked Kali’s but didn’t love it. He and the other guards stand out from the other men in the story by being respectful of the many female characters, further showing the dynamics of this world but also correcting the wrongness of that more close-minded way of thinking.
You see that same kind of “correcting” in the tournament Kali must participate in to secure her spot as the rajah’s final bride. The wives must fight and kill each other to advance their ranks but still remain beneath the thumb of their husband or owner. It’s a harsh system but I loved the way Kali fights against the way things are because she recognizes that they don’t have to remain that way, and that just because something works doesn’t make it right.
There were some points in the story that I think were omitted without real purpose (i.e. a character not revealing a secret to another, etc) which struck me as off, for lack of a better word. But, overall, I think the plot was pretty solid. It moves at a decent pace though I didn’t have trouble setting the book down. I loved the way the world was described, the magic, the politics, and the society. The last part, especially, rang through the entire book in the way that Kali thought and acted, how the characters around her interacted, and so on. This world’s culture was clearly established through the smaller details which was much more enjoyable than reading info dumps (which were small, and few and far between).
The Hundredth Queen fits in that space between books like Falling Kingdoms and Wintersong, creating enough action to keep you reading while delving into beautiful world-building that I’m excited to see more of in the sequel. Though not an absolute standout, this book was certainly enjoyable and I’m eager to read more in this world as any of the author’s future works.