Title: The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia #1)
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Release Date: September 20th 2016 from Harper Voyager
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Listening Time: 13 hours, 32 mins
Original Listen: November 2016
2018 Re-Listen: November 2018
Goodreads Synopsis: An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure.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.
So after reading Durst’s upcoming YA novel Fire and Heist, I wanted to go back to this adult fantasy series and continue with it since I have become a fan of her novels. I originally listened to this 2 years ago exactly and I remember back then that it was good, but not as good as I had hoped. Now 2 years later, I pretty much have those same thoughts! Who would’ve thought that my thoughts are pretty much the same? But today here is a memory lane type review for this book!
Rating: Between 3.5 and 3.75 stars (it wavers a bit)
Original thoughts (2016): I remember enjoying the world a lot in this first book. In this world, the queen is the only one with enough power to control the elemental spirits from tearing humans apart and causing destruction. There are heirs that are trained to take the queen’s place when she dies as well. But when the queen dies, the spirits choose who wears the crown next. The beginning surprised me with how destructive and bloody it was when Daleina’s village is torn apart. The action scenes like that were some of my favorite parts. I also liked that Queen Farrah was an interesting person, thinking she’s honestly doing the right thing. But I did think that the romance that Daleina has later in the book was not well written at all. I also thought that Ven wasn’t a well written male character for being in his middle years. But I did like the narrator, who did a great variation of voices and the world building.
Re-Listen Thoughts (2018): While my rating kind of waffles between my original rating and a slightly lower rating, I can still say that this is a good book, but not great. I think that her YA novel Fire and Heist was much better written and the characters felt more authentic and fun to root for. While I like Daleina for her good intentions and how she’s not the super talented one (she’s always having to work for everything and can’t do everything right), she did get lost in the many side characters and the other story threads. I feel like it doesn’t really her story for some time and side characters got more attention than her. I am hoping that if she does appear in the other books in the series,she will have more development and stand out more.
The other character we follow is champion Ven, an older man who finds Daleina’s village torn apart when she’s young. They cross paths again when she’s training to be an heir. But he becomes disgraced due to his previous relationship with Queen Farrah. While he appears like a tough and legendary champion, there were times that he felt like a teenage YA male character, not like a guy who is in his forties. His “relationship” with Farrah turned weird once you learned some things; you would think that he would be smarter. I also noticed that his dialogue wasn’t great either, compared to Farrah and some other characters.
The next thing I noticed this time around is that the pacing doesn’t work for me. This is a 350 page book and the middle felt like it was taking forever to get to the good stuff. I had even taken a break from the book for a few days because I was kinda bored. I don’t think I felt that in the beginning, but that definitely affected my rating this time around. It’s tough when a short book feels like a tome when the middle is definitely slow.
But I still really enjoy now nasty the plot can get. Durst can throw wrenches in the story and no one is exactly safe and I’m glad that things got really tough in the end. I am hoping that the other books in the series will have that same intensity later on.
Final Thoughts: This is a good first book, but not great. I have read adult fantasy that is more gripping and thrilling for me personally. But this world with forest canopy villages and elemental spirits is cool. The world is fascinating and the author does throw in a few curveballs to make the finale very well done. This book does have a lot of YA crossover as well, so if you are wanting to try some adult fantasy, this is a good one to start with. I am hoping that the further installments will be as good if not better.
Have you read this book/series? Did you enjoy this book? Do you know of other fantasy book with forests as a main setting?