Series: The Girl King #1
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's (1.8.2019)
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, 496 pages
Source: For Tour
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.
Let me start this off by saying that I am a HUGE fan of Asian Fantasy. It’s actually my favorite sub-genre and I crave more of it. I was super excited for this book because not only is it AF, it’s #ownvoices! (If you’re looking for some amazing #ownvoices Asian Fantasy I highly recommend Shadow of the Fox and Girls of Paper & Fire!) Sadly, this book fell flat for me. But, the one thing I did love was the Asian aspect and the culture! I’m so sad I didn’t like it because I really was looking forward to it. I wanted so badly to like it, but I just couldn’t connect to anyone or anything. (This is the second #ownvoices AF I was disappointed in recently, Empress of All Seasons didn’t do it for me either *cries*)
The only character I remotely cared about was Omair. I felt literally nothing – not even hatred – for any of the others. Min was horrible; a dull, simpering princess with the personality of a wet rag. View Spoiler »Being possessed and going psycho evil villainess actually made her better, oops. « Hide Spoiler Set was supposed to be the villain, but there wasn’t any real spice behind his menace. He just came off as a spoiled little brat throwing tantrums when he didn’t get what he wanted. I didn’t even care one bit about Lu, our main character. She was portrayed as a badass, but with the lack of weakness to make her relatable. We were told she felt things, rather than being shown (which actually goes for Min and Nok too). She was bold to the point of being stupid, rushing brashly head-first into situations without bothering to think about consequences. She was very boorish for being a princess, and not in an endearing way. And because I didn’t care about Lu or Nok I didn’t like their romance, either. Not to mention they could barely stand each other for most of the book, then out of the blue they were kissing?! Like wtf? It gave me a bit of mental whiplash. Oh and let’s not even mention the introduction of a love triangle at the end -___-
I hated the multiple POVs. I was detached enough reading 3rd person and being told instead of shown, but the switching POVs made it even worse. I hated Min’s chapters. I didn’t like or care about her at all as a character, and her chapters were the most boring (although thankfully they got more interesting toward the end, after the shamaness appeared). I would just get remotely interested in one of Lu’s chapters and it would switch to Min and totally throw me out of the story, and it was like I had to start from scratch to build my interest back up again. EVERY. TIME. So by the time something was actually happening in the story, all I felt was total apathy.
Speaking of something actually happening – I’m talking 100 pages from the end. IN A FIVE HUNDRED PAGE BOOK. Other than the major even that led to Lu escaping the empire, literally nothing happens for four. hundred. pages. There was no plot whatsoever in that giant chunk, resulting in me being so bored I wanted to gouge my eyeballs out.
I was interested in the magic, but it all felt quite vague and I had trouble grasping it. The world building kind of sucked in that aspect (not for the Asian feel and culture, I felt like that was well done). I would have liked to see more about the magic system – how the Triarch worked (I only had a vague grasp on them), and the Kith/slipskins. It would have been much more interesting that the not-plot and focus on character development (*coughs* or lack thereof).
I really think this should have been a 300 page book. With the lack of action and world building, there wasn’t anything overly important in the middle of the book. I skimmed a great deal after page 300 and still came away knowing what happened. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. The only interesting part was the last 50 pages, and by that point I was too ticked off at having wasted so much time reading the last 450 pages that I didn’t even care anymore.
I don’t know if I’ll bother with the second book. I might give it a chance since it is Asian Fantasy in hopes that there’s more of the parts I did like.
Writing style: 3/5
Overall rating: 2/5