Author: Sarah Fine
Series: The Impostor Queen (#1)
Read: January 16th-18th
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: January 5th, 2016
Genre: high fantasy
In short: a little slow here and there, but otherwise a well-written, captivating story!
Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by magical priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.
But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.
Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.
The Impostor Queen seriously intrigued me the moment I read the blurb. I’m wary of chosen ones, but sign me up for chosen ones that don’t quite work out! Sarah Fine really built up a fascinating world too, and I think this series is full of great potential.
≫ THE PLOT:
“There is a prophecy,” he says, glancing up and down the hall. “One made hundreds of years ago.”
Elli is next in line to be the queen of the Kupari, and the vessel for a dangerous combination of fire and ice magic. All magic wielders have a bit of both, but only as the Valtia—the queen—can one have the perfect balance. The pressure’s on Elli, because the Kupari’s warlike enemies, the Soturi, have become more and more unruly. She has to fulfil the prophecy that claims she will be the most powerful Valtia ever seen. But everything goes wrong when it seems that Elli doesn’t have any magic at all. She’s forced to flee the wrath of the priests who have groomed her and raised her to be their puppet. She ends up in a camp outside the city filled with criminals and wielders alike. There, Elli learns that she is not at all what she thought she was, but she still has a vital role to play in her beloved crumbling kingdom.
I feel like the prologue was a bit unnecessary, and the story perhaps could have started a little later. I also could’ve done without the amount of worldbuilding information relayed through conversations early on, but I’ll admit that the world of The Impostor Queen is definitely not like your regular YA fantasy, and that grounding was definitely needed somewhere early on in the story. For the first half or so after Elli’s escape, I felt that the story was quite character-based—not that that was a bad thing. It did mean, though, that not much was happening while Elli was, loosely speaking, finding herself. But again, I enjoyed reading that. The plot twists and the action, though, are just as fast-paced and shocking as they needed to be, and aside from a few slow bits in the camp, the story progresses well enough that I was definitely invested. Also, the LGBT bit! I wish it had been explored more, but I’m glad it was there.
≫ THE SETTING:
What I loved about the setting was that it’s very, very different from your staple YA fantasy. There were hints of our world here and there—I thought I saw a bit of the Vikings in the Soturi and their ships—but the Kupari peninsula is very much a breath of fresh air. Most of the worldbuilding establishes history, culture, and tradition, which were very interesting! I also really liked the way this book treated magic. It didn’t go the stereotyped way, in which magic is seen as Terribly Evil™ until the protagonist reevaluates their thinking. Magic is nuanced, both a blessing and a curse.
≫ THE PROTAGONIST:
I didn’t choose to be chosen, and I will not choose to die.
Elli is a really well-written protagonist, to me. She’s definitely flawed, and goes through palpable character development. In the beginning of the story, the sheltered princess she was immediately came off as naïve and idealistic, but not annoyingly so. Then her disillusionment and her feelings of uselessness came around, which were very understandable and again, not at all frustrating to read. It’s going to sound rather emotionless, but Elli’s a really logical character—in the sense that I could actually get where she was coming from almost all the time, and everything she did made sense in the context of her world and her personality. Which is far, far better than I can say of so many YA protagonists. My only issue with her is that I feel like she didn’t miss Mim enough or think about her enough during her time at the camp—since Mim was Elli’s best friend, I thought she’d show up in Elli’s thoughts more. Anyway, I can’t wait to see how Elli grows over the series!
≫ THE OTHER CHARACTERS:
Elli’s is a very introspective POV to read, but the other characters were definitely fleshed-out and interesting. First off, I am so glad Aira wasn’t reduced to the ridiculous mean girl. Oskar made a good enough love interest, I think, but beyond that (aka for the long time I wondered if his relationship with Elli would be platonic) his character was well-developed and pretty darn complex. I think that my favourite supporting character, though, was Sig. He wasn’t around much, but I loved the way he was a foil to Oskar and a really standout, unique character in his own right. I really don’t think I’ve seen a Chaotic Good/Chaotic Neutral character in YA book done as interestingly as he was.
≫ OF VILLAINS:
It’s always the priests, innit? Although I knew early on that the robed bald dudes were the bad guys, I had no idea how far they would go. I love the big reveals we get about the priests, because they were horrific and really creepy, and properly cemented them as formidable villains.
≫ THE ROMANCE:
When you look at me, I’m suddenly warm. The sight of you makes my heart speed. Do you really think the only magic in this world comes from fire and ice?
The Elli-Oskar romance was slow, which was good. I can’t say I was impressed enough by Oskar to get on board with it the moment it was hinted at, but I did like the way they progressed from friendship to something more, despite the bumps on the way. In short, I can’t gush about it, but I can’t criticise it either.
≫ THE ENDING:
The climactic scene was action-packed and explosive—in more ways than one. Ah, bad fire magic puns. But jokes aside, I put this book down and looked up the next one immediately. Hook, line, and sinker.
≫ TO SUMMARISE:
Give this a go for sure if you’re a fantasy kind of person. Lovely setting, interesting culture, and a great main character too!