Wednesday 13 December 2017

The Rogue Queen (The Hundredth Queen #3), Emily R. King

"I am born of the stars, and I will see them shine again"
Despite the odds, Kalinda has survived it all: Marriage to a tyrant. Tournaments to the death. The forbidden power to rule fire. The icy touch of a demon. That same demon now disguises itself as Rajah Tarek, Kalinda’s late husband and a man who has never stopped haunting her. Upon taking control of the palace and the army, the demon brands Kalinda and her companions as traitors to the empire. They flee across the sea, seeking haven in the Southern Isles.

In Lestari, Kalinda’s powers are not condemned, as they are in her land. To take back the empire, Kalinda will ally with those she distrusts—and risk losing those most loyal to her—to defeat the demon and bring peace to a divided nation.

* * 
2 / 5 

The Rogue Queen does better than the second book; it has moved beyond the "tournament" style plotline of the first two books and tries to tackle a more "epic war" plotline between three opposing forces: Kalinda and her allies, the demon disguised as Rajah Tarek, and the bhuta rebels. I didn't find it particularly interesting, but the pacing, characters, and writing are all generally better than in The Fire Queen. 
"Dutiful men are all the same - martyrs. You want for everything but take nothing for yourself"

Prince Ashwin has released the Voider to fulfil his heart's desire, and the demon has taken the form of Rajah Tarek, raised an army, and is storming the capital of Tarachand to reclaim the empire. Kalinda, Deven, Ashwin, and a few others oppose him; but their secrets, loves, and desires are tearing the trio apart. Deven thinks to give up on Kalinda, leaving her to take the throne and the role of Kindred; Ashwin thinks the best way to peace is to meet with Hastin, the leader of the rebels; Kalinda sides with Ashwin, further tearing her and Deven apart. Whilst Ashwin and Kalinda return to Kalinda's once-home, the temple of Samiya, Deven seeks his brother Brac and Rohan's sister Opal, whose glider crashed in the lands of the enemy. Time is short and the end draws near.

I love a good war novel. Something with high stakes and clashing kingdoms and warring armies and treaties and tricks and lies. I love something grand and ambitious and wild. But The Rogue Queen was tame and predictable; there's a few army camps and a bit of backstabbing, all well appreciated and part of what I preferred about this book over The Fire Queen, but it was never quite enough for me. Kalinda has a romance problem, Kalinda seeks allies, Kalinda runs into trouble, that trouble is then resolved in the nick of time. It's a well-worked formulae. 

Agony has a long memory and the cold inside me will not let go

There's the reappearance of few characters from the previous books that people might be glad to see: Tinley, for one, and Mathura, Deven's mother. There's some airships and demon spells and magic otherworldly portals that give this story some spice. But what isn't spicy? The romance. It does finally choose a direction following a "shocking" reveal from Ashwin, and it was nice to see some firm decision making from Kalinda and attempts to make amends, but I still didn't care much for it. 

The ending? Supremely ambiguous. I was under the impression that this was a trilogy, but the ending is open; it could reasonably be finished, in that the big overarching plotline of the three books is wrapped up and there's some sense of closure, but it also massively implied that there would be another book. I think this is the end of the road for me. I'm done with Kalinda and her story, it's suitably finished for me, though I might potentially consider reading more by King if it had a killer premise. I think she'd be quite good at a standalone - I really did enjoy The Hundredth Queen, but the sequels? Not so much. 

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

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