‘Orphaned, exiled and hunted, Cerulia, Princess of Weirandale, must master the magic that is her birthright, become a ruthless guerilla fighter, and transform into the queen she is destined to be.
But to do it she must win the favor of the spirits who play in mortal affairs, assemble an unlikely group of rebels, and wrest the throne from a corrupt aristocracy whose rot has spread throughout her kingdom.’
What is immediately evident about A Queen in Hiding is that the world in which events unfurl has been planned out and developed in a convincing and detailed manner, enough information about the happenings beyond Cressa’s domain shared for the reader to get a solid grasp on world politics and the concepts that govern the lands without being overwhelmed with facts that aren’t relevant to the threads of narrative that twine together to bring to light the issues that both Cressa and the reader see on the horizon. This is not to say that there isn’t a lot to learn, but it’s done in such a way as to experience it through the lives of key players, without pages given over to exposition instead of story. It’s a world in which the reader can almost immediately feel comfortable, which is in no small part down to the behaviour of Cressa herself.
One of the common features of fantasy novels that involve royalty seems, at the moment, to be a rift between mother and daughter, the former inevitably finding the latter to be a disappointment of some kind, leading her to treat her daughter poorly and distance herself from her. The thing I think I loved most about A Queen in Hiding is that Cressa and Cerulia clearly care for each other and have a positive relationship; that their connection isn’t solely based on the fact that Cerulia is the continuation of the line of queens. That Cerulia has yet to be Defined (have her particular power identified) worries her mother, yes, but Cressa demonstrates empathy based on her own experience with her talent and does not treat her child as if she is a disappointment. Much of what we see of Cressa has her focused on ensuring her daughter’s safety, not only because she is someone the kingdom needs, but because she plainly loves and cares for her. It was lovely to see a parent-child relationship portrayed so positively within a genre where parents are often a cause of strife, and Cressa and Cerulia were easily the characters that I grew to care for the most quickly. In the same vein, that we get to meet other members of Cressa’s family and see her in roles other than queen of her kingdom were some of the sections that I loved most, particularly what we learn of her childhood visits with her father and the easy teasing between her and her half-brother.
I adore a good magic system and I enjoyed reading about both the talents of the line of queens and how their powers function, and the magical properties of the waters of Nargis and its connection to royalty. I particularly liked the fact that the water does not confine what magic it has to the use of royalty and can grant healing and other positive benefits to ordinary citizens in need without there being a huge price to pay in return (though whether there truly is no price, given certain events in the novel, is, perhaps, debatable). The catamounts too, were a feature that I especially found interesting, their role one of protecting the queen, but more on their own terms than as any form of tamed creature at anyone’s beck and call, and I hope we see more of them.
Cerulia is written in a manner that convincingly portrays her age and upbringing, which I find is often something that is not always done well in fantasy when it comes to children with magical gifts. She adapts to her varying circumstances in a fashion that one would expect of a child of her age, which is to say not immediately and not altogether successfully, her sadness, petulance and lack of understanding of the ‘real’ world contrasted with her desire to try and do well and not repay kindness with poor behaviour or her inability to contribute as well as anyone else. She tries and fails and struggles (and sulks), and there are elements that she never quite gets to grips with, but her attempts are endearing and ultimately leave you wishing for positive things for her in a world where she can never be entirely who and what she is. Given the direction of the narrative, I feel that it is so important that Cerulia is easy to connect with and care for, and Kozloff does a fantastic job of making her an interesting and compelling character.
A Queen in Hiding is out on the 21st, to be followed by The Queen of Raiders in February, then A Broken Queen and The Cerulean Queen through the spring, making the quartet available to read over the course of a four month period. If you’re looking for a new epic fantasy series to read (without the usual year long wait between books!), I highly recommend the Nine Realms books, published by Tor in the US and UK! Thank you to Tor for sending me a copy of A Queen in Hiding! I enjoyed it hugely and look forward to reading the rest of the series!