I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King
Series: The Hundredth Queen #1
Published by Skyscape on 2017-06-01
Length: 300 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: #NGEW2017, 2017 New Release Challenge
As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.
But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.
Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.
In Emily R. King’s thrilling fantasy debut, an orphan girl blossoms into a warrior, summoning courage and confidence in her fearless quest to upend tradition, overthrow an empire, and reclaim her life as her own.
So I wasn’t overly impressed with The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King like I thought I’d be. I thought I’d be fangirling over this book, writing a really enthusiastic review. But instead I feel meh about it. The Hundredth Queen had a lot of potential. It’s a high fantasy with elements of romance and rebellion. Sounds promising right? But in reality it was like all the other YA fantasy books out there where an unskilled, untrained young girl becomes the unwilling face of the rebellion…oh and she falls in love with the first boy she sees (literally!).
The orphaned Kalinda was raised by a Sisterhood (similar to a convent/nunnery) and at 18 she has never known the world outside it. She is timid, naive, and a social outcast even among the Sisterhood. Her illness growing up has left her slightly sickly and even now with the fevers under control she is surprised with the Rajah chooses her to be his last rani. I liked and disliked her. I liked that she was steadfast in her beliefs and always stood up for equality. Kali genuinely has a good heart. But I disliked her pining for the captain.
Deven is a great character, don’t get me wrong. But he is a flat character. And while Kali’s instant love for him can be explained away by the fact she’s never set eyes on a man let alone speak to one, Deven does not have that excuse. Their love just made no sense to me.
The story really revolves around the myth of the 100th rani and the god Enlil. While the author opens the story with a note that the mythology of the book is fiction, there are many similarities with the ancient Mesopotamian gods and goddesses. In fact, I was hoping for a fantasy mixed with mythology but was sorely disappointed. Though the mythology the author creates and the world-building is very similar to that of Mesopotamia.
Because of the myth, there is a rank tournament held prior to each rani’s wedding to the Rajah. The rank tournament allows any of the current ranis and courtesans to challenge the incoming rani for her place at the Rajah’s side. It is a fight to the death. Kali is no fighter so I was curious to see how this particular element would play out. Again there was a lot of build up and while I did enjoy how Kali handled it, the actual tournament was disappointing.
Then there was the rebellion and the supernatural/paranormal element of the bhuta. This was the book’s saving grace. While the rest of the book felt like a repeat of other YA fantasies, the bhuta were original. I won’t go into to much detail as I do not want to spoil the story. I’ll just say the bhuta present an interesting challenge as they hold the elements like fire, wind, earth, water (think Avatar) in their hands and are being hunted by the Rajah.
Overall I was underwhelmed by The Hundredth Queen. The instalove and cliché heroine made it difficult to read. The characters ran together and even now just a few days after finishing the book I can’t remember Kali’s best friend’s name or the bhuta who helps her. Despite that, I did enjoy the supernatural element of the bhuta and I’m curious after the ending to see what will become of the empire so I will attempt to read The Fire Queen when it releases. If you enjoy the standard YA fantasy tropes, you will probably enjoy this book. If you’re looking for more, I’d pass.