Title: The Orphan Queen (The Orphan Queen #1)
Author: Jodi Meadows
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
Acquired Via: Publisher
Release Date: March 10, 2015
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.
The Orphan Queen not only surprised me by how much I enjoyed it, but it also ended my streak of "meh" reads. I enjoyed Jodi Meadows' Incarnate series, her debut, but this one blew those out of the water. Her books are very clean and sweet, but The Orphan Queen takes on some darker issues within the Indigo Kingdom, as well as within the characters.
In a way, Wilhelmina, known as "Wil", and the Ospreys reminded me of The Boxcar Children but ninjas. They were trained thieves and fighters who were born as nobility but are forced to make it on their own since they didn't want to stay in Skyvale's orphanage. They are training and biding their time so they can start a revolution and win Wil back her throne. The younger children pull their weight in ways, but they mostly depend upon the older children: Wil, Melanie, and Patrick. The kinship and relationships between the others went a little over my head, but whatever. The only thing about The Orphan Queen's characters that was non-Boxcar was one of them turned out to be a major douchebag who did some pretty horrible things.
And then Wil turned into Catwoman (not literally). She and Black Knife, the vigilante trying to rid the world of magic users and righting wrongs or whatever in the kingdom, are like superheros, but set in a medievalesque fantasy world. They were a lot of fun and not nearly enough of the book focused on them. (I knew who Black Knife was from the beginning, and I'm sure you will as well, but that doesn't take away from the enjoyment, I promise.)
I didn't understand the mass execution of the nobility in Aecor previous to the events of the novel until the end, but that still seemed a bit over-the-top. There were infodumps galore throughout the novel, but I couldn't understand why Meadows left that reveal for the end. I think it would have been fine knowing from the beginning, but the hazy implications of various references to the One Night War were frustrating.
And that ending... I'm sure you're seeing in everyone's reviews of The Orphan Queen (if you've looked) that the ending is one hell of a cliffhanger. I almost wish that I would have waited to read this until book two was out, but such is the book life. Now I'm just going to have to hope that I don't forget everything before the end of this duology is released.
If you're a fan of fantasy but don't want the guts, gore, and sex (I'm looking at you A Song of Ice and Fire), then you should pick up The Orphan Queen. The writing and world-building is very enjoyable, and Wil is an interesting main character with real problems on her hands. I think you'll like her, and the book, as much as I did.
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Since I have an ARC of The Orphan Queen and not enough room in my house, I'm putting it up for grabs.
Ends at 12:01am CST on April 25th
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To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected the outcome. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own.