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.
So, I’m finally reviewing this book. When I first encountered this on a “Best of 2015” list at the end of last year, I was both excited and skeptical. Excited, because the reviewer had made a direct comparison between this book and The Graceling series by Kristin Cashore, which is one of my all-time favorite series’. Skeptical, because they had made a direct comparison between this book and the Graveling series, and could it possibly ever live up to such a high bar????
Well, to answer my own question. YES. YES IT CAN.
This is an AMAZING fantasy book. Like a drop everything and run to your nearest book-selling-or-borrowing outlet and get your hands on a copy right now so you can stay up all night reading it kind of book. Did I spend an entire night ignoring the clock so that I could make it to the end of The Orphan Queen? Yes. Do I regret it? No. In fact, my only regret was that I hadn’t managed to read it sooner. I couldn’t believe how much time I had wasted longing for a great fantasy read while not reading it. (Sometimes, having a bear of a TBR really does come back to haunt you.)
I loved so many things about this book – I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t always like first person POV, so when I started reading I thought I might have a problem getting pulled into the story. That, coupled by the fact that I found the first scene to be a bit on the confusing side, meant that I had some trouble following the narrative at first. Luckily, though, it only took the first three pages to draw me in and hook me. I was inhaling The Orphan Queen by chapter two.
There are mistaken identities, vigilantes, super-hot and broody princes, betrayal, and a healthy dose of mysterious backstory that the reader gets to uncover little by little, one page at a time. I loved the development of Wil, as well as her involvement with both Black Knife and Prince Tobiah both. Meadows does an incredible job of creating high stakes situations that seem impossible to escape from! Which is just one of the things that makes this book so much fun to read!
I loved the magic in this story, especially since – unlike in many YA Fantasy tales – it seems to create a lot more problems than it solves. I thought it was clever to ensure that the cost of using magic was almost unbearable for the world around them. Sure, magic does a lot of good, but good things can often be abused to the point of being bad. I thought that was an issue that got explored well here, and reminded me vaguely of the vast environmental issues facing our world today. The technology and innovations that have hurt the atmosphere are good, but we’re facing consequences we don’t really know how to deal with. That’s just one woman’s take on it, but yeah, major props to Jodi Meadows for such a uniquely interesting magical plot line.
I’ve read some reviews that seem to think that The Orphan Queen lacks originality and cohesiveness. While I can see why they felt that way, I disagreed. I found the storyline to be well-thought-out and I enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot. Some of them I could see coming and some I didn’t expect, but that’s generally a given when you read a lot of fantasy (the more you read, the easier it is to predict the way plots are going to go). Despite that, this is one heck of a good book, and it’s so easy to get swept up in it.
Basically, you have to read this book. If you haven’t yet, you’re lucky because you won’t have to wait a year (which feels like an eternity) for the sequel. Be warned: the cliffhanger ending is unbearable and monstrous, and you’re going to want to immediately dive into The Mirror King, so you might as well just order that one too.
If you love fantasy, you certainly won’t regret it.
Rating: 5/5 stars
Have you read The Orphan Queen??? Did you like it? Are you interested in this duology if you haven’t read it yet?