Title: A Queen in Hiding
Author: Sarah Kozloff
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Shelves: Female-fronted, Female-authored
As a rule, it takes a few chapters for a story to find its legs . . . but, once in a rare while, one gets it hooks into with the first chapter, perhaps even the first scene. A Queen in Hiding is one of those books. With just a single page, depicting an empty Throne Room prowled by catamounts, Sarah Kozloff captured my attention and pulled me into her story.
Easily my favorite read of the year so far, this is a book where absolutely everything worked for me. The narrative style was mature, with every word carefully chosen, and yet it flowed effortlessly off the page. Characters came alive, imbued with personality, and made instantly memorable. Coming from someone who struggles with names and faces, I not only picked up on everyone here, I felt like I knew them . . . like I wasn’t meeting them, but remembering them. Considering how many POV characters there are across the nine realms, and how often the characters and settings shift, that’s saying a lot.
The dialogue is stellar, not just a means of telling the story or revealing personality, but genuine conversations that sound as real as the people speaking. I was drawn into the plot against Queen Cressa and Princess Cérulia right from the start, intrigued by the soft, subtle, insidious plotting of the Queen’s councilors, and the genuinely concerned over the first violent attack from the rooftops. Kozloff wrapped the drama around me and it was all I could do not to follow wherever she might lead.
Reminding me of the fantasy depth of Guy Gavriel Kay, combined with the narrative layers of Robin Hobb, this is a book that’s equal parts coming-of-age tale, high fantasy, historical fantasy, and political thriller. It’s immersive, it’s perfectly balanced, and its almost brilliantly paced, with just the right combination of character building, narrative development, and thrilling action. It’s a deceptive tale, which I think works against it in the early chapters, because you really find yourself wondering how we’re to take the villains seriously, and questioning why the Queen doesn’t just confront them directly. As it builds, however, and we learn more about the characters, the motivations, the world, and the political climate in which the Queen’s tenuous rule exists, we come to understand so much.
With The Queen of Raiders coming in February, A Broken Queen in March, and The Cerulean Queen in April, I’m tempted to beg for ARCs of them all, to just lose myself in 2000 pages, but I want to space this out and enjoy it. I’m going to go out and buy the paperback of A Queen in Hiding over the weekend, so I have the complete set, but I plan to read the others as they’re released . . . to hold them in my hands and recapture the pleasure of getting lost in a new realm.
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2
My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.