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The Queen’s Hunt by Beth Bernobich – review
Ilse Zhalina has left to start a new life in a garrisoned fort, leagues from her estranged lover, Raul Kosenmark. The violent quarrel that ended Ilse and Raul’s relationship was quite public. And also, quite fake. They hope to mislead Kosenmark’s enemies so that he can continue to influence the politics of the kingdom in an attempt to stave off an ill-advised war, while keeping Ilse safe from royal assassins who would kill anyone Raul is close to. Ilse longs for Raul, but is set on her own quest to find one of the three fabled jewels of Lir. One of the jewels is held by King Dzavek, sworn enemy of Veraene, who has used the jewel’s power to live for centuries. Ilse seeks one of the other stones to counterbalance Dzavek’s efforts to destroy her country.
In her search, she encounters a shipwrecked prisoner from another land, a woman who has a secret of her own…and the second jewel in her keeping. The two women become allies in their quest for the third jewel, because finding and controlling these stones could mean salvation for both of their nations. And their failure the ruin of their peoples.
What I expected: After the first book, Passion Play, I expected that the second would follow along close to the first – which would mean following the romance between Ilse and Raul and their political machinations to protect their country. I expected the romance to be the focus of the story as tragedy and redemption was the focus of the first. Naturally, since they both were involved in political intrigue, I expected that to flower, as well.
What I got: I got nothing that I expected! Except perhaps the increased importance of the political arena. The focus of the story was not even close to the romance between Raul and Ilse, though it was mentioned many times throughout the story. What I got was a political story with several players. Ilse and Raul were basically relegated to the background, and none of the new characters were the focus – there were many more POVs in this second book, and none of them seemed to be the main character. I also got a lot more magic than expected; the first book mentioned magic in passing almost, and it was just a portion of the atmosphere. This time around it is much more of the actual focus for the story.
What I liked: I liked the world the author has created here, and the characters are very interesting. I did enjoy learning more of the magic.
What I did not: I did not like that there was no main focus other than magic itself. I did not like that the best part about the first book was relegated to the background for the second. I did not like the “spirit” creature Ilse encounters on her magic travel – there were parts of that scene that just screamed “Hello reader! Can you tell our character here is sexually frustrated?” It felt cheap and unnecessary. I did not like the bad guy. His motivations and the climax of his portion of the story felt contrived and illogical. I did not like that the two most interesting new characters had such minor roles in the overall story.
Cover Talk: I don’t hate the cover or love it. I like that it is a woman with a sword, that we don’t have the ridiculously overused rear angle, and that she is modestly dressed. I don’t like that she is holding the sword in such a manner that she’d be much more likely to slice her own neck than hurt someone else. I think I like the odd radioactive glow, as it gives the image interest even though we have no idea what type of strange and possibly radioactive accident is creating the glow. So the cover, for someone who hasn’t read the book, could be enticing even though it isn’t my favorite.
Would I recommend? No. I can’t really recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the first book as it is so dissimilar. Not to say that it is bad, but expecting a similar type of story with the same main characters will dissapoint. This might work best as a standalone for people new to the series, or perhaps people should begin the series here and read Passion Play as a prequel.