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 . . .
But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.
With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.
The Queen of Blood is a fantasy YA book that follows the story of Daleina, an idealistic young lady who gets chosen to study at a school where all those who have shown “affinity” towards a certain type of spirit -that is, control some type of spirit- get to attend. Yes, in this world, queens are not chosen by hereditary means, instead, any potential heir needs to be trained at a school and learn to control the 6 different types of spirits that threaten the lives of everyone.
In Renthia, where this story is set, everything has a spirit. The woods, the lakes, the air, fire, everything you can think of is made up of spirits. These spirits have always lived in harmony -more or less- with the elected queens, who happen to be elected by said spirits. Now, this concept was kind of illogical at first, because the nature of spirits is one of destruction and annihilation of anything that doesn’t involve them. They hate humans, and they would be more than glad to be able to kill everyone. So why on earth would they get to choose the heir that will become the next queen and check the spirits power? Because once a queen dies, the spirits enter this trance-like state where they are frozen and unable to do anything, not until the next queen gets chosen. Which in my opinion, I think it’s a cool concept. Both are able to survive if they work within the limits each side set upon the other. So of course, things start going wrong. Villages start getting attacked, and people are being killed off. So why isn’t the queen doing anything to prevent said attacks or to help the people she is sworn to protect?
The basic premise of the book is interesting; it’s unique, something that is rarely seen among the YA genre, especially if it is fantasy. It’s always the same plot, the same tropes, and I have to say this book did surprise me in that aspect. The world is made up of spirits who hate humans and are kept in check thanks to the powers of the queen, whose only job is to defend her people from the spirits and maintain order. Our MC is a breath of fresh air as well. Daleina is not good at what she does, she struggles with her power, she is not strong like the other students, and she never does things as she is supposed to. It is refreshing seeing a MC not nailing everything that she learns at the first try; it takes time before she can use her power well. But what really bothered me, is that we don’t get to see that! The book had so many time jumps, even within the same chapter, that we don’t get to see how her training went, how she was able to learn what was so hard for her to do, we just cut right into the future where she is in her last year of training and she has finally learnt how to control the 6 types of spirits. And that really bothered me, because the transitions between those time jumps were never smooth.
Besides the unnecesary time jumps, another thing that bothered me were the characters. I didn’t feel attached to ANY OF THE CHARACTERS. Not even one!! Because there were so many time jumps, and so much going on -but at the same time nothing happened- the characters felt completely flat, without any sort of personality whatsoever. We didn’t get to “grow” with the characters, or understand the choices they made. Even our MC felt flat! And don’t even get me started on Ven, the disgraced champion. At first I got some sort of Chaol vibes from him, which I loved, but by the end of the book I couldn’t help but wonder why was Ven being so fucking blind! He had known EVERYTHING since the very beginning, and still, his main concern was to think about how the poor queen must have been feeling. SHE WAS KNOWINGLY LETTING PEOPLE GET KILLED! YOU CAN’T FEEL SYMPATHY FOR HER! Ugh. If I had cared at all about the characters, then the ending should have wrecked me, yet there I was, unfaced, reading the last scene like nothing was happening at all.
And yet, I think this book had so much potential to be an amazing YA fantasy book, but it wasn’t. The world-building could have been more detailed, the fact that certain people lived in trees and had created these platforms and wire paths to travel from tree to tree was so fucking cool, and yet it was barely mentioned as a means of transportation. There were no passages dedicated to how the world was supposed to look like, or how the villages were supposed to look like, and I can’t help to think how it was all wasted. And the same goes to the “magic” in this world. We don’t know who gets to have this affinity towards spirits or why, or how it works. We are only told that certain women can control them, and that’s supposed to be the whole explanation.
Another thing that annoyed me was why on earth did everyone just let the queen continue being on the throne if she was not doing anything to protect the people! There was a council of champions -the ones who choose the queens-to-be- that was supposed to advice the queen, yet everyone kept seeing how the villages were destroyed and people were killed, and no one, not even ONE dared to question what the hell was going on with the queen’s powers?! If maybe they were fading or if she was doing it on purpose? Like, what kind of council are you if you are just gonna let everything roll and not even care about the increase in the attacks that kept happening!
To sum up this mess of a review, I think the author had an amazing idea, but one which was poorly executed. Everything could have been further developed for the readers to have a better sense of understanding of the world and the magic in it. I will be reading the second book since I have an arc, but I’m not expecting much from it if I’m being honest.