Book Review: The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King
Release date, June 1, 2017!
As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.
Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.
Book: The Hundredth Queen
Series: The Hundredth Queen #1
Author: Emily R. King
Publication Date: June 1, 2017
Page Count: 302
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
My Rating: ★★★★
Every mortal man and woman was created in the likeness of the gods—sky in their lungs, land beneath their feet, fire in their soul, and water in their blood.
Kalinda, an orphan and ward, has lived in the Sisterhood’s temple since she could remember. Struggling with her training in combat, she prefers the quiet devoted life to her faith rather than being chosen by one of the suitors who frequent the temple—That was until the Rajah visits to claim his hundredth bride.
Through a series of unexpected events, Kalinda finds herself as the chosen contender for the title of the hundredth queen. Not wanting the opportunity, but not having a say in the matter either, Kalinda is thrown into a precarious position where everyone is waiting for an opportunity to pounce, and take the position for themselves.
Not only is her life on the line, she finds that the court has many secrets; and so does she.
For some reason, I went into this story apprehensive. I haven’t heard much about this book, but the few reviews I stumbled upon were mixed. To my surprise, this story swept me away. Despite a few minor details, I really enjoyed the overall premise.
I couldn’t help but remember the story of Esther in the Bible. A Jew herself, she is chosen by King Xerxes to become his next wife after he banished Queen Vashti. In this story, Kalinda is Esther, but in a far away, fantasy world. After she is taken from her home (view spoiler)[and finds out that she is a bhuta herself (hide spoiler)], she finds out that she represents the very people that are being oppressed. But that is where the similarities end.
The world is centered around the Parijana religion of the Tarachand Empire (which is derived from Sumerian deities.) The gender gap between men and women is massive, as it models a pattern of power exemplified by how many wives and courtesans a man’s court holds, and is often found in ancient times. Women simply have no say in their future, and are forced into unions of servitude and, in Kalinda’s case, brutality since she has to fight to the death—several times over.
Skill trials are a rite of passage—proof of womanhood and the exercise of moral maturity, proof that we deserve our inherited birthright from Ki. A true sister warrior is well trained and physically strong, but she is also dedicated to practicing the five godly virtues—obedience, service, sisterhood, humility, and tolerance.
Sounds fair, right? Hmm…no. Kalinda’s was always a sickly girl, prone to fevers, and the bottom of the totem pole in the temple which she was raised. However much I didn’t like the world itself, because of its polygamous relational structure and overall lack-of-respect for women in general, I still liked how well it was developed. I believe the world building, understanding of the religion, and bhuta powers were well done.
The characters however, could have used a bit more depth. I felt that I was swept along with Kalinda’s story, rather than walking beside her through fate’s door. She did develop, and became rather courageous, I just wanted to see more steps towards that change in character rather than jumping over cavernous depths to get there.
Three hundred years ago, the demon Kur bestowed upon four mortals his most potent powers, the elements that make up our world. Half-human and half-demon, these bhutas were formidable but not immortal. They bassed their powers on to their offspring to wield as weapons against mankind.
I really liked the formula that made up this story. Combining the Parijana religion, ancient settings, and elementals definitely threw me curve balls that I didn’t expect. I think that the Tarachand Empire itself could have used more description, but then again, it wasn’t the main focus, so I think it was OK as is.
Note: there is a potential love-triangle, but I didn’t consider it so. Kalinda only reciprocates one male’s advances, and not the other’s. So I don’t consider it to be one at all.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. Perhaps to some it may be predictable, but I found myself taken aback more times than not with the twists and turns throughout. I’m curious to see where it will go in The Fire Queen.
Sexual content: Some. There wasn’t anything explicit, but when you have a Rajah who has 100 wives and consorts…you can tell he has some sexual…issues.
Vulgarity: None that I remember.
Violence: Moderate. Tournaments are held for women to fight to the death, and some stonings are carried out.