The Queen of Sorrow, by Sarah Beth Durst

>> Saturday, October 06, 2018

TITLE: The Queen of Sorrow
AUTHOR: Sarah Beth Durst

PAGES: 419
PUBLISHER: Harper Voyager

SETTING: World of Renthia
TYPE: Fantasy
SERIES: Follows The Queen of Blood and The Reluctant Queen

The battle between vicious spirits and strong-willed queens that started in the award-winning The Queen of Blood and continued in the powerful The Reluctant Queen comes to a stunning conclusion in The Queen of Sorrow, the final volume of Sarah Beth Durst’s Queens of Renthia trilogy.

Queen Daleina has yearned to bring peace and prosperity to her beloved forest home—a hope that seemed doomed when neighboring forces invaded Aratay. Now, with the powerful Queen Naelin ruling by her side, Daleina believes that her dream of ushering in a new era can be realized, even in a land plagued by malevolent nature spirits who thirst for the end of human life.

And then Naelin’s children are kidnapped by spirits.

Nothing is more important to her than her family, and Naelin would rather watch the world burn than see her children harmed. Blaming the defeated Queen Merecot of Semo for the kidnapping, Naelin is ready to start a war—and has the power to do it.

But Merecot has grander plans than a bloody battle with her southern neighbors. Taking the children is merely one step in a plot to change the future of all Renthia, either by ending the threat of spirits once and for all... or plunging the world into chaos.
NOTE: spoilers here for the first two books in the series. Don't read further if you haven't read them. The books in this series don't really stand alone, so you should really be starting with book 1. Links to my reviews above.

The first two books in this series were great. An imaginative, fresh world. Strong female characters, each strong in her own way. Action, danger, emotion, everything. This last one is good, but it doesn't quite end the series with a bang. I mean, it doesn't end it with a whimper, either. It's just good.

The action picks up where book 2 left off. Daleina and Naelin are adapting to sharing the queenship of Aratay. They seem pretty complementary: Naelin supplies the raw power, while Daleina, for all her youth, brings the the measured thoughtfulness and experience. But the threat posed by Merecot over the border in Semo is not over. And that's all I'll say about the plot, as it's much more fun to read it without knowing what is coming!

There is certainly an external plot here, but what I like so much about this series is that the way things play out is driven by character. Our three powerful women act and react in ways that reflect who they are. And what they are is real and flawed. Naelin is extremely powerful and a good person, but she's a crap queen. She cares more about her children than about her kingdom, and makes no bones about it. Merecot is basically a charming psychopath. The ways she acts in the book are sometimes counterproductive and she could get much more by asking nicely, but she would not be generous herself and do something without getting something in return, so it doesn't occur to her to ask. Daleina is probably the least flawed of the queens, but she is a little bit too trusting sometimes, to eager to see the good in people.

The interactions and dynamics between all these characters are what makes the book tick, and I enjoyed reading it. There's romance and action and cool world-building, but it's all in the background behind these well-developed and interesting characters, and that works perfectly.

As for flaws... well, I mentioned about Merecot being a charming psychopath. Well, there are two such characters here, she and Hamon's mother, Garnah, who's now been elevated to Queen's Poisoner, despite Hamon's protestations. They kind of steal the show here, because they really are very charming and funny, and I'm not sure they should have been quite so cool. Naelin and Deleina feel a bit earnest and uncool in comparison, which I'm not sure is the best choice for the story.

Still, that was a minor issue. This was an excellent series, and I will look forward to seeing where Durst goes next.



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