Series: The Orphan Queen #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Published on 10 March 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Orphans & Foster Homes, Romance, Royalty, Young Adult
Source: my home library
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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.
I first read a sample ARC of this book, which I think was about one-quarter long, in 2015, so instead of deleting that review entirely I am going to rewrite bits and pieces of it now that I have read the complete book. The sample was provided by Edelweiss.
Wilhemenia is the orphaned queen of a conquered kingdom, a girl disguised as a refugee duchess in an enemy kingdom determined to free her people from the unjust rule of an usurper, and protect their right to use magic even though other kingdoms believe wraith, a dangerous by-product of magic, is slowly destroying the world.
The worldbuilding in this book is phenomenal – there’s so much culture and different beliefs and even small gestures and sayings used by the characters. The one issue I had with it is how much of the world-building is relayed through dialogue – even Wil herself acknowledges that people are reciting lessons or indulging in hearing their own voices. Perhaps I would be more sympathetic if the words were coming from Wil herself – there’s nothing wrong with passing on information and world-building so long as it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the story. There is a map – a map! – which I know is sometimes very popular with a certain niche audience of fantasy, and I really liked flicking back and forwards as our character moved across the map on their journeys.
Wil is pretending to be Duchess Juliana of Liania, which has fallen to wraith. She’s really the lost orphaned queen of Aecor, on the other side of the Indigo Kingdom, which forced other kingdoms into signing a no-magic agreement in an effort to curb the wraith. Wil’s a totally awesome character – she’s quick with her mind, wits, her physicality and her bravery. I really loved spending time with Wil, because she was led to believe certain things by her parents, friends, and kingdom, and she comes to understand on her character journey that they might have been wrong. It was really cool to watch her go from this gung-ho rebel to uncertain if her goals still aligned with the goals of others.
I especially loved the masked vigilante known as Black Knife. I loved the relationship with Wil, which started out as recognising each other running illegally across the rooftops after dark, and grew into an uncertain alliance, then a respectful friendship, all without learning each other’s true identities. Because of their banter and vibes, the whole relationship felt very Ladybug/Cat Noir (from Miraculous) to me, and I ship them so hard.
Now that I’ve read the whole book, I can also say that I love this plot. I loved Wil disguising herself to get into the palace, I loved her experiencing all the luxury she’d been missing out on as a rebel, and I loved the politics behind the magic. It felt a bit like a stand in for climate change politics – it was creeping ever closer and destroying kingdoms, yet everyone kept using magic because it wasn’t there yet. But acting once it arrived would be far too late. I loved Wil’s changing relationships with her new friends and her existing friends, and I love how everyone had their own motivation for taking the actions they took, which I felt was all very organic.
Overall I absolutely loved this book, and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it after reading and loving the sample ARC for so long.