Book title: The Orphan Queen
Author: Jodi Meadows
Series: The Orphan Queen, #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins Publishers)
Release date: March 2015
Format: Hardcover, 391 pages
Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.
She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.
She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.
She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.
Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.
I really wanted to love The Orphan Queen. Sadly, I didn’t. It took me about ten days to get through the first half of the book, reading a little bit at a time. I kept waiting to be hooked but found the story lackluster, despite it starting relatively in the middle of things while at the same time… not. (Yup, I’m really good with words, I promise.) I think the main reason I wasn’t gripped was because of the characters: I wasn’t a huge fan of any of them, and nothing turns me off from a book more than characters I don’t care about. The plot finally picked up a little more than halfway through and that’s when I finally was interested enough to sit down and finish the book. But it took me forever to get invested. I still don’t even think “invested” is the right word.
The story follows Wilhelmina (“Wil”) as she infiltrates the palace and schemes to take back her kingdom. She just so happens to be the long-lost princess of Aecor. The Indigo Kingdom conquered Aecor years ago, and Wil’s plotting her return as Queen. Wil and her best friend Melanie assume the identities of noblewomen from Liadia, a country that’s been destroyed by wraith. They “seek refuge” at the palace in Skyvale, the capital of the Indigo Kingdom, where the two gather information and feed it back to their group of lost Aecor nobility, the Ospreys. It’s less confusing than it sounds. I’m just still unsatisfied with how epic this book sounded and how not-epic it turned out to be.
In this world, magic is also illegal. And, surprise surprise, Wil just so happens to possess some magical ability. For a book that really focuses on the terrible, destructive wraith (which were equal parts awesomesauce and creeptastic) and the consequences of magic-use, there’s a surprising lack of magic and explanations about it. I thought the whole concept surrounding magic was interesting from the few snippets we got (which were very cool, I’ll admit), but I wanted more! (P.S. I still don’t completely understand the Glow Men… but maybe that’s just because my brain wasn’t really involved in the story the first time they made an appearance and were very likely explained.)
In this book, false and hidden identities are in abundance. We’ve got Wil and Melanie posing as women they’re not. But we’ve also go the city’s vigilante, the so-called Black Knife, a mysterious (and sexy, if I do say so) man who takes an interest in Wil. Wil’s encountered Black Knife before, during missions she and her Ospreys have been on. Black Knife keeps an eye on everything that goes on in his city, and starts to get to know Wil during the nights she sneaks out of the palace through her apartment window. (Side note: Palace security is pretty awful.)
Besides the late night adventures Wil goes on, she also adjusts to palace life again, though not as a princess, obviously. She’s at the mercy of the other nobles and their cattiness. I must say, however, that palace life is boring me these days. I love my fantasy, and princes and princesses, but do we really need to attend so many balls? I’m getting burnt out. Ahem, moving along… It’s at the palace that Wil meets Prince Tobiah, a sullen, “bored” prince who seems kind of average and is definitely not romantic material. (Seriously, though, the word “bored” was used so many times to describe him.) He’s also got a personal guard named James. (I hope James becomes a more important character in the sequel and has more to do. He seems like a really nice, straight-forward guy.) But don’t worry, there is no love triangle to be found! *Wipes brow.*
Now I’m going to rant about a spoiler, so if you haven’t read this book, skip this paragraph. SPOILER COMING UP! GO AWAY IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE ORPHAN QUEEN! Okay, I really wanted Tobiah and Black Knife to be separate people. It was so refreshing to have a prince who wasn’t Mr. Perfect and whom the heroine didn’t find herself romantically attracted to. But then… my hopes were squashed like an innocent spider that unfortunately decided to crawl within the the sight-line of a spider-hating person with a very large book. I loved Black Knife. He was so cool, helping people and being all mysterious and slowly building a friendship with Wil. It just felt so cliche to have him be the prince in disguise. If the two characters were separate, then there’d still be an air of mystery surrounding Black Knife. We’d still be wondering what his motives are and have so many questions about his back story and whatnot. Sigh. I’m not mad, just a bit let-down. I still love Black Knife. And since he’s the prince that definitely complicates things, but I wanted something different from my YA fantasy and that didn’t happen. END OF SPOILER.
In the end, The Orphan Queen was a relatively good book (but only because the second half is much better than the first) with some action and a few hair-rising events, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. It’s nothing that’ll blow your mind. While I liked Wil reasonably enough, I never really felt entirely connected to her. Melanie got on my nerves. Patrick was an ass. All the other supporting characters were bland as cardboard. The only really great aspects of the book were Black Knife, the whole wraith-being thing, and THAT ENDING. So cruel. I love and hate it when authors end on a crazy-mean cliffhanger. My emotions couldn’t handle this ending. Just, agh. THE FEELS. ♦
So tell me…
Have you read The Orphan Queen? If you haven’t, would you be interested to? What was the last book you read that featured a character with multiple identities? Comment below letting me know! And, as always, happy reading!