Queen’s Hunt by Beth Bernobich
Reading level: Adult
Hardcover: 332 pages
Publisher: Macmillan (Tor Books)
Release date: July 17, 2012
Series: River of Souls #2
Source: Copy from the editor for review
Reviewed by: Stéphanie
Ilse Zhalina has left to start a new life in a garrisoned fort, leagues from her estranged lover, Raul Kosenmark. The violent quarrel that ended Ilse and Raul's relationship was quite public. And also, quite fake. They hope to mislead Kosenmark's enemies so that he can continue to influence the politics of the kingdom in an attempt to stave off an ill-advised war, while keeping Ilse safe from royal assassins.
While Raul seeks to make alliances for peace, Ilse is set on her own quest to find one of the three fabled jewels of Lir. In her search, she encounters a shipwrecked prisoner from another land, a woman who has a secret of her own...and the second jewel in her keeping. The two women become allies in their quest for the third jewel, because finding and controlling these stones could mean salvation for both of their nations. And their failure the ruin of their peoples.
I really didn’t have any words to describe how I felt when I finished QUEEN’S HUNT, and I mean this a good way. This series so smart and emotional. It has everything I want in a good fantasy book, including a well developed fantasy world and just enough magic to keep things interesting. Where the first book of the series, PASSION PLAY, was an introduction to the fantasy world and to the main character Ilse, this sequel is more about the war brewing between three major kingdoms and the political battles within each of these kingdoms. There’s so much more tension in this sequel and its faster pace made me devour the book very quickly.
However, a fair warning to everyone. The writing differs from the previous installment, since book one was written mostly from Ilse’s point of view while this second book was written from multiple point of views. Though I understand this switch was necessary to incorporate many characters into the story, it felt it changed the flow of the series. Mind you, I read one book right after the other so this small detail might not be as obvious if I would have read the first book a year ago. I fell in love with Ilse’s story in book one and I would have liked to read more about her and her lover Raul. They spent to much time apart in the first half of QUEEN’S HUNT, that their brief reunion wasn’t satisfying enough for the romantic in me. This just proves how the series is truly evolving past their love story into a great epic fantasy. Tensions between parties is brewing war and conflict which, in turn, is adding layers upon layers to the story.
So many new characters are introduced in this sequel and it would be very difficult to names and describe them all. Valara Baussay and Leos Dzavek are two major ones, and although enemies, they have very similar goals. They’re both on the hunt for three magical ring and want what’s best for their kingdom, yet both have very different views and abilities. I don’t want to go into too many details of the war that’s brewing and I don’t want to name all the characters (there’s a lot!), but I will suggest jotting down the names of every characters you meet, because it will get overwhelming as the story progresses.
Despite all the new characters, Ilse remains my favorite. I admire her so much and I think it’s because of her perseverance and her ability to adapt to every new situation. And you can’t not love Raul and his dedication to peace. It’s through him that we see the political unfairness of his court and he seems to be two steps ahead of everyone in the game of deceit and power. And of course, as a combo, Ilse and Raul are perfect for each other since their love is built on so many past lives together.
The River of Souls series is so much more than a fantasy series. It’s a story of politics, war, romance and magic. In my opinion, this series has a lot of potential. Although I enjoyed QUEEN’S HUNT, I felt the first book was much better. Personally, I’m very critical of sequels. I always expect too much from them and I always end up being a little unsatisfied. However, I have a strong feeling book three will be great since Beth Bernobich has set us up for a great conclusion to the trilogy. The cliffhanger leaves us with so many unanswered questions, and I really hope the anticipation will be worth it.