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Series: #2 in the Orphan Queen duology
Release date: April 5th, 2016
Publisher: Katherine Tegen (HarperCollins)
Length: 544 pages
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
Rating: a LOT of great stuff here, but it should have been two books
Wilhelmina has a hundred enemies.
HER FRIENDS HAVE TURNED. After her identity is revealed during the Inundation, Princess Wilhelmina is kept prisoner by the Indigo Kingdom, with the Ospreys lost somewhere in the devastated city. When the Ospreys’ leader emerges at the worst possible moment, leaving Wil’s biggest ally on his deathbed, she must become Black Knife to set things right.
HER MAGIC IS UNCONTROLLABLE. Wil’s power is to animate, not to give true life, but in the wraithland she commanded a cloud of wraith mist to save herself, and later ordered it solid. Now there is a living boy made of wraith—destructive and deadly, and willing to do anything for her.
HER HEART IS TORN. Though she’s ready for her crown, declaring herself queen means war. Caught between what she wants and what is right, Wilhelmina realizes the throne might not even matter. Everyone thought the wraith was years off, but already it’s destroying Indigo Kingdom villages. If she can’t protect both kingdoms, soon there won’t be a land to rule.
In this stunning conclusion to THE ORPHAN QUEEN, Jodi Meadows follows Wilhelmina’s breathtaking and brave journey from orphaned criminal on the streets to magic-wielding queen.
This is probably going to be one of my least coherent reviews ever, so bear with me, because my opinions are ALL over the place. On the one hand, I loved it! On the other hand, it needed some nips and tucks! On the other hand, the plot was amazing! On the other hand, it should have been chopped in two! And now I have four hands. So you can see how well this is going already.
Basically, I think The Mirror King, while being an emotionally satisfying finale with some truly expert plotting, should have been two books. I like big fantasy clunkers, and at 544 pages, it's not even the longest fantasy book i've read this year, but TMK should have been sliced right down the middle so that every devastating plot twist could have had time to breathe and sink in. Sometimes, emotional moments got lost in the quickness of the plot (and the occasional blandification of the characters).
Because I was SO HOOKED for the first 200 pages. Like really, super duper into it. Everything is HORRIBLE for our main characters, which I love. Will, Tobiah, and James become even more vivid characters to me, and the wraith was so awful and ominous. AND THE WRAITH BOY. Omg, best new character. So after all the **magical shenanigans** of the last book, Will now has a boy made of wraith--mystical magical world-destroying mist--and he's just as strange and unpredictable as you'd expect. He's also my favorite character. He's fabulously unique and is such a wonderful complication to Wil's already highly complicated life.
And then A THING happens, a truly shocking thing that is so wonderfully HORRIBLY shocking it actually forced me to stop reading for the night so i could ABSORB this horrible thing that super villain Jodi Meadows had thrown into this plot!
And then we enter the blah times. Aka, the part where the book should have been CHOPPED, so we could sink into the horribleness of what happened, and give the very MANY plot points to come time to breathe as well. The middle, truth be told, was a slog. I liked getting to know James more (other best character beside Wraith Boy), but that whole second section should have been a new book. And it should have wrenched my feels out, but my feels were only touched when we got to the last 150 pages and careened into an absolutely SLAM BANG ending that made me cry. Physically cry.
This was such a strange reading experience. I cried! I shipped! I gasped! I grumbled. I yawned. I did all the things. The takeaway is that this is a great book, but it sometimes gets in its own way. The plotting does this truly excellent "oh look, every bad thing is followed by a worse thing and all of Wil's actions have horrible consequences" which is my JAM in fantasy, but occasionally the characters got kind of muted by that. But then other times, the characters BANTERED and I was like "where did this fabulous personality come from why were you HIDING IT??" Gillian is confuse. I think if it had been split into two, it would have had more of a chance to dig into its tremendous potential, which is definitely not wasted, but certainly not capitalized on to the extent that it could have been.
As for the world building, once again, I am of two minds (and those minds are fighting each other a lot). On the one hand, i FUCKING LOVE THE WRAITH OMG SO CREEPY and what it does to people and places! Like, the doors grow TEETH and try to GNAW PEOPLE and stone melts and mirrors shatter and ahhh! And Tobiah shoots a streetlight in the eye! (Which made me laugh out loud). I liked learning the realities of ruling and politicalness... but a lot of this book was people discussing politicalness, and not enough shooting streetlights in the eye. Then there are the two countries, the Indigo Kingdom and Aecor, which lack that immersion feeling I like in my high fantasy. I don't get a sense of their cultures or individualities or anything, really.
And then, the thing I dislike most about this mostly excellent duology: the character names. They drive me up a wall. Wilhelmina, Melanie, James, Francesca, Kathleen, Connor, Patrick, Carl, Kevin. Adam Goldberg. CARL. KEVIN. Those are not names for high fantasy characters. Those are names for accountants.
|Carl, First of His Name, Father of Dragons|
(this is what happens when you google "accountant gif")
And then the ending happened, and I was completely in love. Book, why don't you make my life easy? Because the ending was awesome and heartbreaking and action packed and romantic and sad and hopeful and all the things I want in a series ender. I think it ended up being stronger and more entertaining than the first. I'm such a mess of conflicting thoughts, but overall, I think this was a strong series finisher, that, though it unwound in fits and starts, ended on its highest note.
So, that was like the most negative positive review ever. OKAY THEN.