Friday 7 July 2017

The Hundredth Queen, Emily King

Anything can be changed by those who have the courage to blaze their own path
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.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

* * * .5
3.5 / 5

The Hundredth Queen had a strong opening: Kalinda is at mountain temple that raises young girls; in exchange for funding, any nobleman may visit the Sisterhood temple and choose a young woman to be a servant, courtesan, or wife. When Rajah Tarek arrives at the temple to choose his hundredth wife, Kalinda is shocked to be chosen; she had been hoping to be passed on by, free to devote her life to the Sisterhood and the gods. 

The Burner is gone; he has vanished, like a quenched fire without a trace of smoke

Ripped from her childhood home and closest friend, Jaya, Kalinda is placed under the care of Imperial Guard Captain Deven Naik, who she grows fond of. Naik is the first man she ever sees and there's a pretty ridiculous paragraph describing how "godly" he looks, very much "lust at first sight". At the capital, Kalinda is informed that in order to wed the Raja she must participate in a tournament, fighting against the other wives and courtesans for her throne. The Hundredth Queen weaves together mythology, magic, action, and fights to create a solid book.

I do not understand why the gods have made it so that every woman's lot in life is to owe her security to a man

Kalinda is an interesting character. She's pretty religious and concerned with her duty to the gods and her fate, which makes a nice change from a lot of books I've read recently. Unfortunately, she's one of these characters that goes on and on about how plain she is, how surprised she is that a man might desire her. There's all these comments about how shapely and curvy and womanly her fellow temple wards are and it gets really grating after a while. Thankfully, as the book goes on, Kalinda grows less whiney and there's a cute but cheesy scene (like something out of a fighting anime) about the power of sisterhood and female friendship.

What I didn't expect this book to contain, and was really pleasantly surprised by, was magic. There's a sort of avatar-like magic system, power over the four elements type of thing. Those with magic, called Bhukas, are persecuted. King manages to weave in a decent explanation for this using a complex crafted history, the same way she explains the hundredth wife tournament, which I thought was cool. 

He is the first man I have seen in person. My eyes widen to take him in. He is more fascinating than the chapel murals of the sky-god, Anu, and his son, Enlil, the fire-god. 

Then there's the romance aspect, which was pretty stupid. When Kalinda arrives at the palace, she sees a woman, a wife of the Raja, beaten to death for running off with a guard. I don't know about anyone else, but this would definitely put me off starting an illicit relationship with my guard! It was just stupid and frustrating. On the upside, I had thought there was going to be a sort of love triangle between Naik and the prince, but this is thankfully not the case. 

The Hundredth Queen has a good mix of lots of good fantasy elements: loads of fighting, magic, rebellion, mythology, and, of course, love. It's a decent read if you can like Kalinda, who improves as a character over the course of the book. 

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book. 

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