The Impostor Queen – Sarah Fine – Margaret K. McElderry Books – Published 5 January 2016
Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by magical priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.
But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.
Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.
A solid fantasy, The Impostor Queens brings together a balance of magic, romance and action.
When Elli was just four years old she was chosen to be the Saadella, the girl who would become queen when the current Valtia died, taking on the queen’s power, a balance of ice and fire magic. But when the Valtia dies, the magic does not rush into Elli like it should. The priests are desperate for a ruler and threaten Elli’s very existence in their efforts to make her magic manifest. Scared, Elli runs, leaving the opulence of the temple for the harsh reality of life outside the city. Rescued by a hunter, Oskar, Elli is taken to live with the bandits in the outlands. There she finally learns more about her powers, or lack of them, and her role in righting the wrongs that have so long been allowed to occur.
It is easy to tell from the first few chapters how this book is generally going to play out, who is going to be the bad guys and how they are going to take power. Elli has a lot to learn. When the book starts she is a pampered and childish girl, secluded from the world. But for all her naivety, she isn’t stupid, asking questions and seeking to know more about the magic, where it comes from and why. I had to drag myself through the first part of the book, waiting for when she would have to flee, hoping this would either a) make things more interesting or b) give Elli the shake up to make her into a more likeable character. Fortunately it does both, as the book develops into something more complicated and far more enjoyable. The death of her mentor, the Valtia, really shakes Elli, as does her lack of magical ability and the sudden loss of her home, power and everything she holds dear. All this sudden hardship makes her into a much stronger character. Once Elli escapes from the temple the book really increases in pace and interest and I had no trouble devouring the chapters. I enjoyed reading about the time Elli spends in the bandit caves, as she shows her true determination to be helpful, stand on her own and learn.
There is an undertone of LGBT, mainly bisexual, in this book as, completely isolated from the world except for the priests and her servants, Elli silently desires and loves her handmaiden. But when she escapes the temple she also falls for her rescuer, Oskar. These new feelings only confirm those she felt for her handmaiden, but she seems to realise that there is no future for that relationship and is happy to progress with the one that develops between her and Oskar. Oskar makes for a wonderful hero and romantic interest. He is protective, kind and gentle, wanting only to care for his family and those around him, while hiding his true, dangerous skills. I enjoyed reading about Oskar and Elli’s developing relationship.
This book provides everything a good fantasy should, romance, magical battles, lush landscapes, plenty of action and danger, and the complications of politics. However, I couldn’t help finding it a little too predictable and standard. There are no big surprise twists or original ideas that hit you out of nowhere, which is fine if that’s how you like your fantasy novels, but I wanted something to really set it apart from all the other magical tales out there. That said, it’s a solid book. The end is by no means final. It is not a cliffhanger, but there is plenty more to resolve, plenty more battles to be fought, more to finalise on the romantic front, and more room for Elli to grow as a strong and independent character, so I’m just going to assume there will be a second book.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Magic, power, matriarchy, war, romance, LGBT
Reading age guide: Ages 12/13 and up.
Advisory: Violence, magic battles and descriptions of death, injury and mild torure. Underlying sensuality but no details more than kissing. Mild language, ar**.
Published: 5 January 2016 by Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 336 pages.