Friday, March 6, 2015

Book Review: The Orphan Queen

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

As any of you who have seen my Goodreads review can attest I had a mixed bag experience with this book originally.  5 months ago I had excitedly requested the book for review from Edelweiss, running home from my friend's to read it.  Eagerly I read it, though I had some trepidations about the beginning, and to my shock I finished it quickly (we're talking less then a hour here folks).  Insult to injury it ended so abruptly I couldn't understand what had happened.

A little research later proved that Harper had only put a sampler (the length of the first part of the book, roughly 140pages) online and didn't think to mark it as such.  Jodi had made a blog post about it by the time I had cooled down enough to actually NOT yell my anger.  Though it didn't do anything for my anger levels as it just made me angry in a different way*.

Anyhow I got my hands on a finished copy (thank you ALAMidwinter) and read it through as quickly as my exhausted brain would let me.  With frequent stops to comment on things (see hashtag #TheOrphanQueen...or this status update conversation no spoilers, unless you count reactions to things not named as spoilers).  And thank you sweet shiny books that I did because my heart could not go on.

Possibly not that surprisingly almost all of my issues with how Part 1/the sampler ended are resolved within Parts 2&3.  No I'm serious here.  
1) Multiple Possible Love interests? One tosses himself under the bus while another seems to start to work out but ultimately ALSO tosses himself under the bus.
2) Super Shady Melanie? Legit, if surprising to Wil, reason.
3) All telling no showing? Okay this evens out somewhat, though its still very much a "Ask a n00b question, get a detailed answer" game in some parts, sort of justified because of what one character is scheming.
4) Why is Magic Bad? I'm...on the fence for this one since I think an answer may have been revealed, but it was a small part of a larger issue so it may not be the whole truth.
5) Wil and Mel's inability to understand court politics? Answered and with relish on one character's part.
6) Black Knife's morality issues (aka the world is black and white): Answered. Especially once we find out who he is. It makes A LOT of sense.  Also why I love him.
7) Wil wondering about if magic is bad? TOTALLY ANSWERED and not in a good way for her sanity.

So you see my broken faith was restored by the end.  Only to be broken anew by the last few paragraphs.  Okay I'm being dramatic, but JOOOODDDDIIIIII :shakes fist:

A lot transpires within OQ and you do need a certain level of disbelief to go along.  Wil's journey outside the castle walls for a number of weeks for instance.  She's pretending to be a highborn lady, who's a Ward of the King.  How the heck she is able to sneak out night after night is surprising enough (though also mostly answered), but a two week journey? TWO WEEKS.  Not two days, not a week, two weeks she's expected to be able to roam off where she (reluctantly) wanted without anyone questioning?  I had a lot of trouble buying that.  

And quite frankly a band of misfit, underfed, orphans with minimal training could actually retake a Kingdom is just as o.O  I don't know what Patrick was smoking, but I'm glad when Wil calls him out.

Like I said put aside your disbelief because this is an engaging roller coaster ride.  I liked Wil, her heart was in the right place in regards to her intentions and during the course of the book she learns to grow that backbone she should have had in the beginning.   She makes plenty of mistakes, but she truly believes that she is working to save her Kingdom (or what is left of that Kingdom) from invaders.  

Tobiah I have little to say about - he's a Prince. He's a bored, kind of disinterested, mostly unhappy because he is being forced to marry a girl he doesn't love, Prince.

James is fun and flirty and protective.  His heart is in the right place as well, though his methods are occasionally suspect.

Patrick I want to see beheaded. 

Melanie...I feel for this girl.  She's torn in two by her loyalties and feelings, wanting to resent Wil for something she can't help and never asked for.  Loving Wil because they've been best friends forever and she knows Wil's heart is in the right place.  Distrusting Wil because she's not such a blind forgiving idiot that she doesn't see that the world she wants can't happen because of Wil.  She makes questionable choices, but like Wil she's trying to stay true her heart.  Its just not a cut and dry solution.

Black Knife. Hey so let's talk about Black Knife who is awesome and great and the best thing since sliced bread.  Also let me emphasize that Black Knife is the awesome one. Everything after we find out who he really is, that's a different story. Before that reveal however BK couldn't have been cooler if he tried.  Honestly he reminded me of why I used to love Nightwing in the New Teen Titans - he smiles and jokes and flirts while dispensing justice.  

Granted BK had some things to learn, like you know the world isn't black and white, nor should you assume all that you are told is sacrosanct, but he makes that effort and when he finds out he may have been on the somewhat less just side then he thought he changes his methods and atones.

That my friends is a sign of someone who is mature.

But like I said after we find out who he is things take a bit of a downhill turn.  Can't say why but depending on the second book's opening, you may hear me say "Don't you dare fridge ____!" 

This all said I'm a little iffy with the last fifth of the book.  A lot comes out into the light of day and suddenly happens.  Not that any of it wasn't previously discussed, but everything happens one on top of the other so its hard to feel anything but dizzy by the end when yet another game changer happens.

So now we wait.  The good news is that a new prequel novella is due out in June (The Hidden Prince), with another due out in September (The Glowing Knight), with at least two more in the wings (currently unnamed) and the second book is due out in March of 2016.  Yeah. Dammit.  Join me my friends in saying JOOOODDDDIIIIII :shakes fist: