Truthfully, my love for The Queen of Blood has nothing to do with the uncanny similarities between Aratay and a Telvanni’s town :
Or maybe I lied – maybe the magical settings captured my interest the very moment I read “clutching her rope, six-year-old Daleina slipped out her window and ran along the branches toward the grove“, because why, thank you, give me tree houses whenever you feel like it, my inner child is glowing with bliss. Add some very nasty spirits to tear down flesh, and you’ll create an equally beautiful and gruesome world I’m most likely to be drawn into.
What can I say, I have complex needs.
Easy enough? Think again. Indeed The Queen of Blood succeeds where so many YA Fantasy novels fail : in picturing a world where threats aren’t gratuitous and villains Manicheans, where nobody’s really ever safe and where the debate doesn’t lie in counting the love-interest dimples.
First of all, Deleina is no all-powerful chosen one. From the moment she sets foot in the prestigious Academy that is supposed to make a Queen out of her, she fails. Repeatedly. Yet while every summoning test morphs into a belittling chore, she
does not give up.
She works hard. She’s smart, compassionate, and driven. What not to love? Who needs a special snowflake when Deleina is so easy to like and relate to? From a reader who has a very hard time standing martyr-like behavior *cough* what *cough*, that’s saying something : I loved the girl, alright?
I won’t lie, I’ve started bracing myself against the out coming girl hate ever since Deleina met her fellow students. It never came. Red Queen who?! It will never fail to baffle me how popular these offensive books are when there are novels picturing so many girl friendships out there. In that aspect, The Queen of Blood is so much better than 90% of the YA Fantasy novels I’ve read, and don’t even start with the “unrealistic” argument : I mean, really?! Does a teenage girl not seeing every fucking woman as an enemy too unrealistic for you? If yes, I’m genuinely sad for the world we’re living in. Like. No. What’s your deal. No. Deleina’s story pictures supportive and healthy female friendships, plural, as well as a great amount of important roles played by women – and I shouldn’t have to stress how important it is.
I won’t dwell on the other characters, but know that I cared for every one of them, especially a certain idealistic champion who is not a love interest, I repeat, who is not a love interest. How refreshing is that? How I enjoyed their dynamics and banter! Beware, this does not mean that there isn’t any romance, because there is, and that’s part of what appealed to me the most : not the romance per se, because it was barely there and never the main focus, but the fact that there could be a sex-positive message and a nice romance without it being shared with the second POV of the story. Please, save us from the predicable meet-cute road. Thank you.
More generally, the side characters are well-rounded and made me eager to know more. They’re also diverse (including a black love-interest^^) which is still too rare in YA Fantasy, unfortunately. Oh, and there’s a wolf, okay? (yes, you’re supposed to shriek in delight. You’re welcome)
As for the plot, some might say that it lacks originality yet while I can understand that claim – and agree with it to some extent – The Queen of Blood still offers a decent amount of surprises in what appears to be a rather classic storyline. It’s really not, but rather a refreshing tale whose author doesn’t shy away from nasty punches. Perhaps you’ll see some of them coming – I did – but I can assure you that you’ll feel compelled to keep reading all the same. Because that’s another thing this book does more than well : the pacing. As far as I’m concerned, there was never a dull moment. I mean, if Adult Fantasy stays my go-to read, sometimes I can’t bother to go through 200 pages of long exposition, you know? Sometimes I want a book that can hold my interest through and through, and The Queen of Blood delivered.
I can’t wait for the sequel.