Hello Humans! Back again for another book review, I see. How discerning of you. Well, today is a great day as I am reviewing one of the most anticipated reads for 2019 The Girl King which publishes oh so very soon on January 10th (maybe one to spend those Christmas book tokens on?).
Two sisters become unwitting rivals in a war to claim the title of Emperor in this sweeping tale of ambition, sacrifice and betrayal for readers of Sabaa Tahir and Alwyn Hamilton.
All hail the Girl King.
Sisters Lu and Min have always understood their places as princesses of the Empire. Lu knows she is destined to become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while Min is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then their father declares their male cousin Set the heir instead—a betrayal that sends the sisters down two very different paths.
Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes on the run. She needs an ally—and an army—if she is to succeed. Her quest leads her to Nokhai, the last surviving wolf shapeshifter. Nok wants to keep his identity secret, but finds himself forced into an uneasy alliance with the girl whose family killed everyone he ever loved…
Alone in the volatile court, Min’s hidden power awakens—a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set’s reign…or allow Min to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could turn out to be each other.
I am a big fan of books that play with the sister dynamic. It was something that felt very big quite a while ago and seems to have somewhat fallen out of fashion in recent years. That being said I’ve read a couple of sisterly books of late and with the popularity of books like Caraval and (hopefully) this book I suspect we might see an increase in sisters gracing our bookshelves. This sisterly duo was particularly interesting to me as the two of them don’t start the book as either the closest friends or as terrible enemies. It is very much the case that their relationship is shaped by the events of the story – which is even more powerful given that for the most part, they don’t actually see each other after the first few chapters. I thought that was a really interesting take on a dual POV book and it was a great way of showing how people can either change or be manipulated (or a bit of both).
What was fantastic for me is that I actually enjoyed both points of view, where normally I end up with a stand-out and then the other one that I tolerate. In this case, however, both stories are very different and both are extremely well conceived. It does mean you kind of get the best of both worlds, if you like court politics and all the subterfuge that comes hand in hand with that then you’ll enjoy Min’s perspective, if you like ‘head off into the woods and stumble upon hard truths about your kingdom’ kind of stories then Lu is your girl. I personally, and unsurprisingly given what I’ve already said, like both.
I am also a fan of hidden/forbidden magic so long as it is done well. I thought that the shapeshifting magic, and the way it was being eradicated by the monarchy, was very powerful, but Min’s discovery of her own powers and finding her own voice amongst those who would use her was also hugely significant. Are you beginning to sense a trend?
The character I wasn’t such a big fan of was Nox, I think that’s my bias towards female characters shining through. That being said I valued his perspective on things and it did make certain romance plot points all the more satisfying to have his view on things.
In some ways, this book is very trope-y, and if I were to just describe the plot point by point I think you could easily draw hundreds of comparisons with other YA fantasy books. But it is the book as a whole, the drawing together of all of these different story elements, that makes this book feel particularly new and exciting.
I will mention that this book is written by an Asian author, therefore counts as ownvoices fantasy – which I love. I really hope Asian fantasy (and other genres) continues to flourish in 2019 because it’s been a wonderful year of reading this year.
If you’re a YA fantasy fan then I would highly recommend you read this book, whatever you enjoy about the genre I do not doubt that you will be able to find a piece of it in this story.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Are you looking forward to reading The Girl King? Let me know in the comments below!