Monday, May 7, 2018

THE ORPHAN QUEEN (The Orphan Queen #1) by Jodi Meadows

This book was provided to me by Katherine Tegen (an imprint of Harper Collins) in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or my review. Thank you Harper Collins.

AUTHOR: Jodi Meadows -- Twitter | Website
PUBLISHED: March 10, 2015 by Katherine Tegen (Harper Collins) 
GENRE: Young Adult, High Fantasy
PAGES: 391
SOURCE: Publisher
BUY IT: Books-A-Million | Barnes and Noble
Find it on Goodreads

Wilhelmina has a hundred identities. 

She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.

Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.

Confession: I love every single solitary word Jodi Meadows has ever written. She's also just an awesome person. I consider myself really lucky to count her as a friend. And it isn't just because she's my friend that I love all of her work. It all started with her book Incarnate, part of an amazing trilogy, and ever since, I've been hooked. Of all the books I look most forward to and am constantly waiting on, hers are always at the top of the list.

One thing I really love is how she is so incredibly committed to her work and to its authenticity. For example, calligraphy is a really important part of The Orphan Queen and its later installments. If you don't follow Jodi on Twitter (and you should), you might not know that she practiced and practiced learning calligraphy for months so that she could master this important part of her book. Not all authors are so committed.

Jodi also creates very memorable heroines who are strong and determined in their own right. While there is certainly romance, these women don't need a man to stand up for what is right, take back what is theirs, or fight for those who aren't as capable.

In The Orphan Queen, this heroine is Wilhemina, who takes on many forms, all in the name of taking back her homeland. A homeland of which she is rightfully princess and along side the Ospreys, the other people who were cast out, fights to regain control of her kingdom. The ache she feels for her people is so painfully real and heart wrenching. You can also tell she feels a little ashamed by this loss.

Magic has been forbidden in what is now the Indigo Kingdom for years. However, the effects of its use are still prevalent. It turns out that Newton's Third Law of Motion applies here: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction and in this case, that opposite reaction is the Wraith, a force that is polluting much of the kingdom and twisting everything into a darker version of its former self. It reminded me like a very dark version of Wonderland. But despite the fact that magic is technically illegal, Wil still occasionally uses very cool magic abilities to aid her quest for justice, while also trying to keep her ability hidden. She carefully walks a tightrope that keeps her in the middle of the action in the Indigo Kingdom as a spy, yet allows her to sneak away and fight for her people.

This was the kind of story where there was a certain amount of suspicion that seemed to shroud a lot of characters. We don't see enough stories where the heroine's sidekick is yet another awesome female character. Here, we have Wil's best friend Melanie, who I was suspicious of the entire story, despite the fact that she was pretty kick-ass and one of my favorite friends of a main character in any book.

At night, Wil sneaks out into the city to spy and right wrongs. She has a very superhero sort of quality about her. And she meets a sort of match in Black Knife, a sort of Robin Hood, but one who is opposed to magic. Despite his secret identity, I will say that if this book has a weak point, it's that I figured out who Black Knife was almost immediately -- in fact it was the second thing I wrote down while taking notes (but I won't spoil it for you).

I'm admittedly a fan of slightly darker characters in YA Lit -- Ash from The Iron Fey series is my ultimate book boyfriend, but I also have a thing for The Darkling in the Shadow and Bone series (which probably points to something seriously wrong with me). All that said, Black Knife hit all the right marks for me.And while his true identity was easy to figure out, his intentions keep you guessing. I loved everything about him.

The strongest point of this novel is absolutely the world building. It's so much better than most books. The descriptions are so illustrative. The landscape is so well-defined and easy to picture. The only downside here is that sometimes, the pace feels a little slow. But there's a ton of activity in the last 60% of the book that drives you right up to the final pages and the major, major, cliffhanger that could very well end in heartache.

Overall, I gave The Orphan Queen 4.5 HEARTS, just because I found it so easy to figure out who Black Knife was. However, that should not stop you from reading this really outstanding high fantasy novel, that will appeal to fans of Sarah J. Maas or Victoria Aveyard.

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