The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross
Published by HarperTeen on February 6, 2018
Series: The Queen's Rising #1
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Young Adult Fantasy
Length: 464 pages Source: Amazon
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When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.
Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.
Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.
With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?
In many ways, The Queen’s Rising was a painful book for me to read. I could see the fantastic ideas just below the surface, like viewing them through a simple gossamer curtain, but they never materialized. At its very best, The Queen’s Rising is disappointing. At its worst, it is raw and tedious. It’s such a shame.
Out story starts out with a rushed boarding school montage, where we learned Brienna is trying to become impassionated (a master of an art or skill) but doesn’t really fir any of the passions. The idea that people have an affinity to or connection with specific art forms is an interesting one, and played with caution and patience, this initial section could have been refined into a book within itself. Instead of letting this third be a careful transition where the reader is introduced to a powerful character with strange abilities, we instead find a personality-free lark hovering among those far more skilled than she, but still most beloved and clearly most important of them all. Pardon me if I’m not buying it. If I’m to become attached to a character, I need more that a few haphazard words splattered across page. I need the character to feel something. I need her to spill off the page. Brianna doesn’t do that at all. Not even close.
When Brienna fails miserably to impress any patrons because she had failed to become adept, she’s kept back to discover the “right patron”. Ultimately, this turns out to be a mysterious lord and a top secret mission to save the kingdom! Too many things fall into this girl’s lap. For an utterly unremarkable creature, she is given too much importance.
The story goes on in much this way, with a lot of time wasted on small things and all the big things becoming resolved by massive coincidences. I have no forgiveness for this style of writing – frankly, I find it lazy. You can see a mile away what is going to happen at the end, and I couldn’t be bothered to care. There were sections, too, where characters are reintroduced. In many books, this would be cause for excitement. “Oh yes, that smol side character! What a delight!” Here, it merely elicited an eye roll. “Why yes of course this character is back. Heavens, why would it be anyone new or interesting?” Typically, these unwelcome reappearing characters also came with a Big Secret that tied together a little more of the plot. Magical! These things just kept coming and coming and felt like they were all too convenient. I kept waiting for something coherent, but it’s like when you’re cooking and you say, “OKAY BUT WHAT IF WE ADD MORE PEPPER.” Eventually, you just have a pepper soup. That’s what The Queen’s Rising is: a pepper soup with pepper breadsticks and served with pepper tea. How dastardly unpleasant.
I’m just so utterly displeased with this one. It has such a pretty cover. I’m rubbish for a pretty cover. If the plot had a little more substance, perhaps? If you’ve got two-dimensional characters, there must be a compelling plot, right? Alas, no. The plot is predictable, unoriginal, and uncompelling. I guess the plot shouldn’t have been surprising since, you know, the books is called The Queen’s Rising. Really, it was bound to be about a queen. Rising to the throne. Duh. Still, the missing fathers and stabbings by salty jealous half-brothers and the superficial adoptions just weren’t impressive. They weren’t. I’m sorry, it just didn’t add substance. It just made me sigh a lot.
“But what about the writing?” you ask yourself. “A good writing has compelling would building, and that can save a novel!” First of all, that doesn’t seem to work for me (see: Splintered). Secondly, the world building was a steaming pile of NOPE. Honestly, I’m just getting unnecessarily salty and mean at this point – there’s going to be someone out there who thought this book is a goddess’s gift to YA and I am going to damage their poor heart. But The Queen’s Rising just had NOTHING to offer. Aside from carbon-copied characters and a plot that decided to sit this one out, the world-building is lazy. Fantasy world building is more than just deciding that magic exists, making up fun names for places, and brandishing swords. Honestly.
Okay, so rule number one about building a medieval-style fantasy world is to make it feel different from our world in every way. A good fantasy world feels like it could be parallel to ours, but never does it feel like it is ours (except for the brilliance that was The Fate of the Tearling, but that’s a whole other thing). For a little while, it felt like Rebecca Ross was following this rule – honestly, for the first third of this book, I thought we had hope for a decent story – but she breaks the illusion a lot. Slang terms like “blow their cover” are used. A huge pet peeve of mine is when fantasy authors start using proper nouns for days of the week and the names of months. Nouns like “Thursday”, which originated from “Thu(n)resdæg” meaning “Day of Thunder” and named for Thor. Since I doubt this fantasy world came up with Norse Gods, these words do not work in any world not driven by Norse mythology. And that goes for “October”, too, which derives from “octo” meaning eight – the eight month of the Roman year. See what I’m getting at? These proper nouns we use in our every day life don’t fit in fantasy novels, because their foundation is absent. They’re also really easy to avoid with careful word choices.
So… when you jumble all this together – the plot, the characters, the writing – The Queen’s Rising wasn’t a good book for me. It’s too easy to see the flaws and not interesting or emotional enough to get me to forgive them. I’d saw this one falls on the line near Beyond A Darkened Shore. It has a beautiful cover and moment of potential, but it spectacularly fails to follow through.
The Queen’s Rising will be donated.
As I don’t believe I will be going on to the next book in this series, it’s time to bid a hasty adieu to The Queen’s Rising. As a bookworm, it’s always difficult to say goodbye to the book, but I simply don’t believe in keeping things around unless they’re either useful or make me happy, and sorrowfully this book does neither. So, alas, I’ll be donating this one.