Book Review: The Reluctant Queen (The Queens of Renthia #2) by Sarah Beth Durst

The Reluctant Queen (The Queens of Renthia, #2)Title: The Reluctant Queen
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: July 4, 2017
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Author
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .
And those spirits want to kill you.
It’s the first lesson that every Renthian learns.

Not long ago, Daleina used her strength and skill to survive those spirits and assume the royal throne. Since then, the new queen has kept the peace and protected the humans of her land. But now for all her power, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she leaves the world before a new heir is ready, the spirits that inhabit her beloved realm will run wild, destroying her cities and slaughtering her people.

Naelin is one such person, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Queen—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her world is her two children, her husband, and the remote village tucked deep in the forest that is her home, and that’s all she needs. But when Ven, the Queens champion, passes through the village, Naelin’s ambitious husband proudly tells him of his wife’s ability to control spirits—magic that Naelin fervently denies. She knows that if the truth of her abilities is known, it will bring only death and separation from those she loves.

But Ven has a single task: to find the best possible candidate to protect the people of Aratay. He did it once when he discovered Daleina, and he’s certain he’s done it again. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.

Sarah Beth Durst established a place of dark wonder in The Queen of Blood, and now the stakes are even higher as the threat to the Queen and her people grows both from within and beyond the borders of Aratay in this riveting second novel of the Queens of Renthia series.
The second book of The Queen of Blood series is here and it is even better than the first book! If you'd like to read my review for The Queen of Blood, you can find my review here. If you haven't read the first book, I'd suggest waiting to read this review even though I will avoid spoilers at all costs.

This series is absolutely fantastic and I love everything from the writing style (so smooth!), to the characters (so kick ass!), to the story line (originality!). For me, Sarah Beth Durst is now an auto-buy author.

We pick up where we left off in the last book which is with Daleina, the new queen of Aratay. Something feels off with her right away and it's because the new Queen is dying. The requirement of an heir, so that the spirits don't kill and destroy the kingdom, sets off a series of events and winds up introducing us to new characters which I simply adored.

Before getting to the new characters, an aspect I enjoyed most was the sense of urgency you feel both because the spirits are taking advantage of Daleina's condition, and that Aratay is under an imminent attack by soldiers directed by the queen of Semo, an old friend of Daleina's. Daleina will rely once again on her former mentor Ven (who is one my favorite characters from the first book). After he decides that he cannot train someone who is young and still in school because there simply isn't any time, he goes off in search for a trainee in the villages of Aratay.

And that brings us to the introduction of Naelin, a mother of two children who also happens to wield magic. But she's intent on keeping it to herself, her duty as a mother far exceeding those of becoming an heir and essentially, saving a kingdom. I loved that Naelin is not a typical teenage female protagonist ordinarily found in the fantasy genre and her decision is a prickly one because it's easy to understand the repercussions of the decision between leadership in the home to that of a people.

Another strong female character introduced and one you love to hate is Garnah. Deliciously evil, she also became a favorite of mine in this book. The female-driven plot is the strong suit of this series and accompanied with a mystery, the overall arc of nature basically wanting to destroy humankind, the light romance, and Durst's keen ability to create an exciting world truly makes this series a magical one.

So if you haven't checked this series out, I implore you to start with The Queen of Blood before reading The Reluctant Queen. You won't be disappointed. This has such a cross-over appeal so it's great for YA and adult fans alike. And up next, I will be reading her Middle Grade fantasy book titled Journey Across the Hidden Islands. I cannot wait to delve in!

Thank you so much to Sarah Beth Durst for providing a hardcover, finished copy in exchange for an honest opinion.


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