I had read Rhiannon Thomas’s first book, A Wicked Thing, and liked it well enough that its sequel, Kingdom of Ashes, is purchased and on my “to read” list. But the description of her new book caught my eye, and I had to read it ASAP.
THE PLOT: Freya is a nerdy, antisocial scientist. Her father wants her to spend more time in society at court, but she really just wants to be experimenting in her lab. She slips out of the King’s birthday party early, only to learn later that almost the entire court was poisoned to death. Freya goes from being twenty-third in line to the throne to Queen of a greatly reduced kingdom.
Her father (not in line to the throne) and advisers want her to act as a figurehead while they try to find the murderer, who they’re sure is part of a rebel sect that hates the monarchy. Freya feels that she could do more good investigating than trying to learn how to walk in court dress or the appropriate way to wear her hair. And if she’s going to have to rule, she’s going to be the best possible ruler she can be…even if that means going against her advisers and her father.
Freya has a trio of friends to back her up. Naomi is her childhood friend whose brother was killed in the massacre. Naomi is alive because she left the banquet with Freya. Sweet, poised Madeline is next in line to the throne after Freya, but she’s doing everything she can to help Freya become a polished ruler. William Fitzroy is the king’s bastard son, and it’s possible the king was about to legitimize him and make him heir to the crown. All three help Freya find her confidence in ruling HER way. But what if one of them was also responsible for the mass murder?
MY TWO CENTS: I fell in love with this book, which is part murder mystery, part finding-yourself story. I admit that, as a fledgling manager, I identified with Freya 1000%. I totally understand how it is to suddenly be in charge. Everyone you report to hates everything you do. Everyone who reports to you hates everything you do. After listening to everyone tell you what you SHOULD do, the only way to really succeed is to be yourself. (A work-in-progress, in my case!)
In some ways Freya reminded me of Elizabeth I as portrayed in the movie Elizabeth. She knows she can make things right, but she’s not sure how, or how to get people to listen to her. I just love that Freya is a scientist. Where other YA heroines use physical skill, Freya uses her knowledge to problem-solve. So refreshing and very relateable.
A decent mystery is also a huge plus. Everyone is presented at various times as viable villains. There were specific people who I didn’t WANT to be the villain, but anyone could have been.
COVER NOTES: First, let me say how pleased I am that this is not a girl-in-a-ballgown cover. Second, the castle in the flask is just brilliant. It gives it just the right fantasy/science mix. This is NOT a heroine who wins over a kingdom with athletic skill or pretty gowns. If she succeeds, you know science will play a role.
BOTTOM LINE: LOVED THIS BOOK. What else to say? Engaging characters, good story.
TEACUP RATING: Five out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: Available February 21, 2017, in hardcover and eformats.
NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: The author says this is a standalone book, but I would campaign for a sequel…
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.