The Red Palace: A Review

The Red Palace by June HurJoseon (Korea), 1758. Everyone is listening in the palace.

With secrets and treachery in every chamber, entering the palace means walking a path stained in blood. Eighteen-year-old Hyeon hopes it will be worth it. After years of studious work, Hyeon has earned her status as a palace nurse–a position that she hopes might help her earn her estranged father’s approval, if not his respect.

After four women are brutally murdered in the public medical office under the dark of night, Hyeon’s friend and mentor Nurse Jeongsu becomes the prime suspect. Determined to clear her teacher’s name before it’s too late, Hyeon is thrust into the center of the palace’s dangerous politics as she starts her own investigation.

Unearthing palace secrets with help from young police inspector Eojin could cost Hyeon everything, especially when the pair finds evidence incriminating the Crown Prince. Together Hyeon and Eojin will have to confront the palace’s darkest truths if they want to solve the murders in The Red Palace (2022) by June Hur.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Red Palace is Hur’s latest standalone mystery. Set in eighteenth century Korea, Hur draws inspiration from the actual life of Prince Sado while bringing both her setting and characters vibrantly to life. Hur carefully details the history of Prince Sado in an author’s note at the end of the novel. The audiobook, narrated by Michelle H. Lee, offers a rich listening experiences–particularly for readers unfamiliar with Korean pronunciation. 

Hyeon’s first person narration immediately pulls readers into the action with tension that doesn’t ease until the novel’s powerful conclusion. As an illegitimate daughter, Hyeon is keenly aware of her status within Joseon’s patriarchal society where familial ties and caste are everything. Still, she rejects these constructs in order to fight for what she believes in and try to save Nurse Jeongsu.

Steady pacing, dramatic reveals, and Hyeon’s determination make The Red Palace a page turner while Hur’s careful interrogation of the limits placed on Hyeon and other young women in Joseon elevate this story into a multifaceted and truly immersive work of historical fiction. This dynamic story is rounded out with subtle hints of romance (and mutual respect) between Hyeon and Eojin and Hyeon’s changing understanding of her own status within her family.

The Red Palace is a fantastic blend of mystery and historical fiction highlighting the best parts of both genres in a powerful combination that makes this story unforgettable. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong, Descendant of the Crane by Joan He, Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy, Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte, Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #Metoo Movement: A Non-Fiction Review

Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #Metoo Movement by Toufah Jallow with Kim PittawayIn 2015 nineteen-year-old Toufah Jallow dreamt of winning a prestigious scholarship from a presidential competition (similar to a pageant) that drew competitors throughout The Gambia. Growing up in her father’s polygamous household with her mother, his second wife, Toufah knew that the scholarship–and the promise of attending any university of her choice anywhere in the world–could be life changing.

When Toufah wins with her focus on touring a play about how to eradicate poverty in the country, she expects it to be the beginning of everything she dreamt of.

Instead Toufah is drugged and raped by Yahya Jammeh–the so-called president and dictator of The Gambia behind the competition.

Terrified that speaking out will put her family in danger, Toufah knows she can’t stay in her home or even her country. She needs to escape before she can share her story.

After a harrowing escape to Senegal, Toufah connects with international humanitarian organizations that help her get to Canada. After years of acclimating to a new culture and climate while processing her trauma, Jammeh is deposed and eighteen months in July 2019 Toufah becomes the first woman in The Gambia to publicly accuse Jammeh of rape.

Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #Metoo Movement (2021) by Toufah Jallow with Kim Pittaway is the story of Toufah’s testimony and how it sparked marches, protests, and with #IAmToufah led Toufah down a path of advocacy for sexual violence survivors around the world.

Find it on Bookshop.

If you have any inclination toward audiobooks I highly recommend checking out the audiobook of this memoir which Toufah reads herself.

Although Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #Metoo Movement includes hard material, it is all handled with care and intention. Toufah’s time in Canada particularly adds much needed levity to this timely story. Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #Metoo Movement is a timely story that situates the #MeToo movement in an international context and demonstrates the lasting impact of standing up and speaking out.

Possible Pairings: Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by Tarana Burke, Everything I Never Dreamed: My Life Surviving and Standing Up to Domestic Violence by Ruth M. Glenn, You Too?: 25 Voices Share Their #MeToo Stories edited by Janet Gurtler, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Ignited a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey, Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Murder For the Modern Girl: A Review

Murder for the Modern Girl by Kendall KulperChicago, 1927 is a positutely marvelous place to find parties if you’re a flapper like Ruby. It’s also a city rampant with crime, corruption, and murder.

But Ruby can explain every single one of her murders. Honest.

In a time and place where women are always vulnerable, Ruby has found an unlikely niche for herself doling out vigilante justice between parties with a variety of poisons that have left a trail of unsolved crimes in her wake. She isn’t particularly worried about being caught. Not when her father, the state’s attorney, is the only one with a good head on his shoulders in Chicago’s law enforcement.

Which is why it’s not entirely surprising when someone targets Ruby and her father.

Luckily, Ruby isn’t just a pretty face or a vigilante. She’s her father’s protege as much as anything with her own keen eye for the law. One she’s ready to use to find whoever hurt her father. Unluckily, Ruby realizes that her brand of justice isn’t quite as anonymous as she thought after an encounter with a bland morgue technician in an alley.

Guy hasn’t used his real name–or his real face–for a long time. How can he when he’s working so hard to hide from his shameful past? Working in the morgue might be the break Guy needs to understand his strange shapeshifting ability. Until an exuberant flapper upends his careful plans.

Together this unlikely duo will have their hands full trying to fight corruption, find the would-be assassin, and keep themselves out of prison in Murder for the Modern Girl (2022) by Kendall Kulper.

Find it on Bookshop.

Murder for the Modern Girl alternates between Ruby and Guy’s first person narrations. All characters are assumed white.

Kulper delivers jazz age vibes and surprising fantasy elements in this story where Ruby uses her ability as a mind reader to deliver justice while Guy struggles to understand his own strange power–elements that are never fully explained or integrated into the story although they are key to the plot. Readers dive right into the fast-paced story with minimal backstory for either protagonist as the action keeps coming. Readers questioning Ruby’s motives may have a hard time getting on board with her status as a vigilante and, essentially, a serial killer but it is an arc that’s fully explored throughout the novel and does end with Ruby turning her back on her life of crime to fight for justice through more conventional means.

Filled with slang, speakeasies, and fabulous dresses, Murder for the Modern Girl is an inventive mystery filled feminist justice and more adventure than you can shake a stick at.

Possible Pairings: Blood and Moonlight by Erin Beaty, Born of Illusions by Teri A, Brown, A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson, Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz, Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

The Other Merlin: A Review

In the great kingdom of Camelot, Arthur is reluctant to take up his roles as prince and future king ever after pulling the sword from the stone. He was drunk, it was a joke! How can an old sword mean he’s destined to be a great hero when he would much rather be a botanist who spends all his time in the library?

Lancelot is happy to flirt with almost anyone who crosses his path. Except the last time he picked very badly and everything went very wrong leaving him demoted to a castle guard instead of following his dreams of becoming a knight who will faithfully serve Arthur.

Emry Merlin’s future has never been as certain as her twin brother’s. It’s always been clear that Emmett would be the child to follow in their father’s footsteps serving as Camelot’s court wizard. Never mind that Emry works harder and better when it comes to all things magic. Instead, Emry has to settle for using her magic to create alarmingly realistic stage effects.

At least, she used to.

With the sword out of the stone, things are changing in Camelot and Emmett is summoned to court to take up his role as court wizard. Except he can’t go. Which the current king, Uther, is not going to appreciate. At. All.

It seems simpler–and safer–for everyone if Emry go instead. It’s not hard to disguise herself as Emmett. It will only be a week. Except the longer Emry spends at court the more she’s caught up in the court’s intrigues and scandals, more drawn into Arthur’s inner circle, and even his longtime enemies like Lord Gawain. The more time Emry spends at court the more she learns about her magic. The more she finds herself drawn to Arthur.

When secrets are revealed and alliances threatened, Emry will have to choose between her own ambition and the prince she’s come to love in The Other Merlin (2021) by Robyn Schneider.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Other Merlin is the first book in Schneider’s Arthurian duology which continues in The Future King. Most characters are cued as white with characters falling across the LGBT spectrum notably including our narrator Emry who is bisexual.

With irreverent banter, anachronisms, and a healthy dose of teen spirit The Other Merlin is a fresh a take on familiar source material. Emry breathes new life into Camelot as she contemplates how privilege (especially in the form of wealth) and gender identity offer different characters wildly different opportunities. Emry knows she is as deserving, possibly more deserving, than her brother to act as court wizard. Whether the rest of Camelot will be able to see that beyond her gender remains to be seen in this first installment.

Multi-faceted characters, numerous side plots, and lots of action and humor make The Other Merlin a page-turning adventure. Readers faithful to the Arthurian canon may be flummoxed by Schneider’s numerous changes but those looking for an original retelling will appreciate her interpretations and updates.

Possible Pairings: Once & Future by AR Capetta and Cory McCarthy, Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst, Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion: A Review

Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion by Bushra RehmanCorona, Queens in the 1980s is changing as the area’s first wave of primarily Italian immigrants are replaced with Pakistani family’s like Razia Mirza’s. The tension between the old and new in the neighborhood is palpable; the criticism clear as carefully tended gardens turn to weeds in the hands of new tenants and change keeps coming.

That tension between old and new is familiar to Razia Mirza. As the daughter of Pakistani immigrants who herself feels increasingly more American than Pakistani, Razia sees that same tension in herself; in her own life. Being a kid in Corona felt easy. Razia could understand the dimensions of her childhood even while she chafed against the narrow boundaries of her role as a “good girl” and a respectful part of her Muslim community.

But now, like her neighborhood, Razia is changing. She buys miniskirts from thrift stores, she listens to music her mother would call wild. Then she gets accepted to Stuyvesant all the way in the East Village in Manhattan where, for the first time, Razia feels like she has the space to be who she wants to be and not who her parents expect.

When her deepest friendship at Stuyvesant blossoms into something bigger, Razia has to decide if she can reconcile her family, her heritage, and her faith with the future she is chasing in Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion (2022) by Bushra Rehman.

Find it on Bookshop.

Short, vignette-like chapters unfold Razia’s story from early childhood into adolescence. For an even more immersive reading experience, check out the audiobook read by the author. Be aware of a few incidents of animal violence (mostly off page, but described after the fact) throughout the book if that’s a point of concern for you as a reader.

Vivid descriptions bring Razia’s world to life as her sphere slowly expands from the careful influence of her conservative parents into the punk scene surrounding Stuyvesant’s East Village neighborhood. Razia’s first person narration hints at larger stories unfolding with the circle of girls and women that comprise the Pakistani-American community in Corona but the tight focus on Razia’s experiences leave many plot threads open to interpretation by readers as they unpack Razia’s experiences alongside out protagonist.

Although romance in the conventional sense doesn’t appear in the story until the final act, Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion is a love story at its core. Again and again, Razia’s world expands as she discovers learning whether it’s at school, borrowing books from her local library, or gaining a deeper understanding of what her faith means to her while reading the Quran with her mother and other female community members at regular Vazes–religious parties–in the neighborhood.

Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion is a tantalizing window into one girl’s life as her world starts to expand, creating a friction between family obligations and personal growth as Razia tries to reconcile her own wants with the expectations of her family and community. Richly detailed prose bring Razia–and New York City–to life alongside provocative feminist themes of agency and freedom; this book and its author are ones to watch.

Possible Pairings: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, All the Rage by Courtney Summers, All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir, The Girls in Queens by Christine Kandic Torres, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, Frankly in Love by David Yoon

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Gender Inequality in Sports: A Non-Fiction Review

Gender Inequality in Sports by Kirstin Cronn-MillsYou’ve probably heard Title IX thrown around with talks about equal rights and feminism. Maybe you even learned about its passage during President Nixon’s administration thanks in large part to the advocacy of Patsy Takemoto Mink in Congress.

When it was signed into law Title IX made it illegal for federally funded education programs to discriminate based on sex–a ruling that would have a lasting impact on education across the country and, especially, on sports.

Gender Inequality in Sports (2022) by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (find it on Bookshop) details the passing of Title IX, it’s lasting impact on women’s sports, and how far it still has to go.

Through concise text and chapters filled photos and callout boxes about notable athletes from Billie Jean King to Serene Williams and Simone Biles, Cronn-Mills discusses the need for both equality and equity in sports to make sure that male and female athletes can be on an equal footing at every stage of their athletic careers whether that involves playing at school, the collegiate level, or in professional arenas.

While using the framing of women’s sports for much of the book, Gender Inequality in Sports also makes sure to highlight the added challenges faced by athletes of color, LGBTQ+ athletes, and nonbinary athletes. In addition to breaking down intersectionality, the text also mentions some of the ways legislation for various sporting events are changing to try and accommodate these athletes in more equitable manners. Cronn-Mills also succinctly and correctly shuts down any arguments that transgender athletes should be blocked from competing as their identified gender stating clearly that trans women are women (and trans men are men) and pointing to the science that shows the idea of trans athletes having any advantage is nothing more than fear mongering by conservatives and TERFs.

Chapters detail the advent of Title IX, it’s impact on sports and how its interpretation is changing to offer better protections and more inclusivity. The closing chapters explore how we can continue to move toward equality and equity in women’s sports and a look at what the future might hold.

Although slim, Gender Inequality in Sports packs in a lot of information. Printed on glossy paper with full color photos, many of the spreads and callout boxes throughout have a teal background and red borders similar to the cover design. This, unfortunately, is the book’s one misstep which might result in some readers needing to shift to a black and white ebook version to avoid pulsing colors on the periphery of their vision.

Back matter includes a glossary of key terms, source notes, selected bibliography, further information, index, acknowledgements, and photo acknowledgements offering plenty of options for interested readers to dig deeper.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea: A Review

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie OhDeadly storms have plagued Mina’s village for generations. It wasn’t always like this way. Many year ago the countryside was protected by the great Sea God–both a protector and confidant of the emperor. Everything changed when the emperor died. Now instead of blessing the area with protection, many believe the Sea God curses them with death and destruction.

Every year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to become the Sea God’s bride in an attempt to appease him and break the curse. Eventually villagers hope one girl might be the Sea God’s true bride–able to love him and remind him of his duty to protect the people and stop the storms.

No one is surprised when Shim Cheong is chosen as this year’s bride. She is, by far, the most beautiful girl in their village. But she is also the only girl Mina’s older brother loves. Rather than watch them both suffer, Mina sacrifices herself in Cheong’s place.

Beneath the sea Mina finds another kingdom in chaos filled with lesser gods and magical creatures all waiting for the Sea God to wake from an enchanted sleep. Trapped in the land of spirits with a god unable to break his own curse, Mina will have to take fate into her own hands to break the curse and save both her people and the Sea God himself in The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea (2022) by Axie Oh.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is a standalone, feminist take on the Korean folk story “The Tale of Shim Cheong.” Mina’s narration is practical but also open to wonder as she explores the literal magic (and dangers) of the spirit world. Oh introduces many of the elements found in the traditional story, even including one version in the text of the novel, so that readers do not need to have familiarity with the source material before reading.

Throughout the novel female friendship and matriarchal bonds take center stage as Mina again and again makes her own fate. Alone in the spirit world, Mina draws strength from memories of her beloved grandmother and support from the other former sea brides that she finds in beneath the sea. In saving Cheong, Mina claims agency over her fate in a figurative sense but also, later, in a literal sense as her red String of Fate repeatedly tries to steer Mina in directions she refuses to follow in the spirit realm.

Mina is a proactive, clever heroine who is very aware of her strengths as well as her vulnerabilities as a mortal trapped in the spirit world. With support from surprising allies including a trio of ghosts and other mythical creatures, Mina slowly begins to make a place for herself beneath the sea while also making inroads with understanding and ending the Sea God’s curse. But it isn’t until Mina embraces her role as a bride and accepts help from other brides, including Cheong, that Mina is fully able to understand how to break the curse and save everyone she loves.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is a retelling that is as evocative as it is inventive; a gripping story where a girl has to learn how to save herself in order to save her world. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones, A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar, Spirited Away

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

The King Will Kill You: A Review

The King Will Kill You by Sarah HenningPrincess Amarande is finally poised to have everything she wants. After a brutal trek across the Torrent and back she is reunited with her love Luca, a lost prince himself raised in hiding as a stable boy. Having fended off invaders, rivals, and her own mother Amarande is about to become queen in her own right–no need to marry except if she chooses–while Luca works to gather his own allies and begin rebuilding Torrance.

Flush with hope and dreams of new beginnings, Amarande and Luca and their allies are eager for the opportunity to rebuild the kingdoms of the Sand and Sky into something new as the continent puts the recent regicides and threat of war behind them.

But even as one queen and king hope to rebuild, there are others just as eager to burn everything to the ground if it means holding onto their own power.

No woman has ever ruled outright in the thousand year history of the Sand and Sky. If the patriarchal establishment has its way, no woman ever will. As obstacles old and new stand in Amarande’s way, she will have to rally all of her forces to stand against her enemies once again in The King Will Kill You (2022) by Sarah Henning.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Kill Will Kill You is the final book in Henning’s Kingdoms of Sand and Sky trilogy. Start at the beginning with The Princess Will Save You and The Queen Will Betray You to avoid spoilers and get the most out of the series. Amarande is cued as white but there is a variety of skintones among the kingdoms of the continent and among the cast in this novel. A close third person perspective primarily follows Amarande but does shift to other key characters including Luca.

Every book in this series builds upon the last expanding both the world and the feminist themes that underpin the entire plot. Having laid the groundwork for this strong cast in book one and set up the political landscape in book two, The King WIll Kill You is positioned as both the best and the strongest book in this series.

Throughout this series Amarande, and readers, have seen characters strive for various goals–most notably power for the various monarchs–only to have the sweetness of success turn to ash upon achieving their goals. Henning reworks that conceit here one more time as Amarande’s supposed happy ending is torn away leaving her and Luca once again scrambling to find safety.

Shifting viewpoints give a wide view of this story that spans multiple kingdoms and a well-utilized ensemble cast. After dispatching many of their enemies both Amarande and Luca hope to be able to work within the system to reform the Sand and Sky into something better not just for the kingdoms and their ruling class but for every person on the continent–something that other rulers attempt to thwart at every turn. After the intense action of previous installments, this shift to political maneuvering offers an interesting but no less engrossing change of pace as the action and intrigue of this series moves to a different stage. (Don’t worry there are still quite a few sweeping battles and sword fights to be had here.)

While Amarande still faces some very real enemies and brutal gaslighting while trying to claim her power once and for all, the real enemy in The King Will Kill You turns out to be the establishment that has worked so long to help those in power and no one else. Faced with trying to operate within a system that was never meant to help anyone like her–despite her own father’s successes as king–Amarande has to confront the fact that sometimes the best way to rebuild is to tear down everything that came before.

The King Will Kill You is an ambitious and ultimately satisfying conclusion to a fundamentally feminist series where action and adventure are tempered well with political intrigue and moral questions. After all, what can be more feminist than a book that literally tears down the patriarchy?

Possible Pairings: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim, The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, Little Thieves by Margaret Owen, Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto, The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

The Queen Will Betray You: A Review

The Queen Will Betray You by Sarah HenningAfter racing through the Torrent to save her love Luca and escaping a forced marriage to the calculating Pyrenee prince Renard, Princess Amarande is one step closer to claiming her throne as the rightful heir to Ardenia and helping Luca restore Torrence to power after the territory’s instability under the brutal Warlord. But there are still forces throughout the Sand and Sky determined to make sure Amarande doesn’t succeed–including some within her own kingdom.

Instead of a triumphant return to Ardenia and her throne, Amarande is greeted in secret and spirited away. Her council and, worse, her wayward mother have their own ideas of what will best serve Ardenia–plans that include crowning Amarande’s long-lost brother Ferdinand in her place. Desperate for stability, the council is willing to hide Amarande away to give truth to their lies about her death leaving her unable to take power or to rally forces to help Luca.

Meanwhile, with the entire continent still reeling after King Sendoa’s death, it seems every kingdom–and every monarch–is vying to expand their power. While Myrcell and Basilica try to strengthen their own kingdoms, the dowager queen of Pyrenee has plans of her own. With Renard dead, Ines has one less threat to her own claim to the crown leaving only her scheming younger son Taillefer to deal with as she consolidates her forces in a daring bid for power that will change the realm forever.

Desperate enemies can often make the best allies as Amarande reluctantly works with Taillefer to escape her kingdom and get back to Luca. But with Amarande and Luca both displaced as heirs they have few people they can trust and fewer resources as they once again work to reclaim everything they have lost in The Queen Will Betray You (2021) by Sarah Henning.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Queen Will Betray You is the second book in Henning’s Kingdoms of Sand and Sky trilogy which continues in The King Will Kill You. Start with the first book, The Princess Will Save You, to avoid spoilers and get the most out of the series. Amarande is cued as white but there is a variety of skintones among the kingdoms of the continent and among the cast in this novel. A close third person perspective primarily follows Amarande but does shift to other key characters including Luca.

The Queen Will Betray You sets up an interesting dichotomy between Queen Ines or Pyrenee and Geneva, Amarande’s mother and the former Runaway Queen of Ardenia, on one side with Amarande opposing both. Both Ines and Geneva were raised to strive for power, to be calculating, and to be tools for men with their own goals and ambitions. After years of surviving in this impossible circumstances both women are fierce and ruthless–determined to do whatever it takes to carve a place for themselves in the continent’s cutthroat patriarchy no matter the cost. Amarande, meanwhile, once again refuses to operate within a system that no longer serves her instead trying to find workarounds to avoid bloodshed whenever possible. This contrast sets the groundwork for the conclusion of this series while also raising questions about morality in the face of ambition and the cost of both complicity and passive ignorance.

After introducing Amarande, Luca, and the Sand and Sky in book one, Henning dramatically expands the world in this second installment. With Amarande and Luca both vying to reclaim lost power readers will see more of their allies including Ula and Urtzi as well as new characters like Ferdinand. With the return of Amarande’s mother Geneva more of the secrets of how the kingdom of Torrance was overthrown and became a lawless territory are revealed.

The Queen Will Betray You is twist after twist from the breathless opening chapters to the shocking final page. Henning’s richly imagined fantasy continues to be a must read for both high action and high intrigue.

Possible Pairings: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim, The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, Little Thieves by Margaret Owen, Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto, The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

The Princess Will Save You: A Review

The Princess Will Save You by Sarah HenningIn the kingdoms of the Sand and Sky every good warrior knows you need to beware or be dead. Unfortunately, even vigilance offers little protection against assassination.

King Sendoa’s sudden death threatens to throw not just the kingdom of Ardenia but the entire continent into chaos as every kingdom scrambles for power. Political alliances are nothing new among royalty but Princess Amarande is horrified to learn that in order to rule she will have to marry first.

Amarande’s attempts to buy time and find a way to keep her crown and her heart are thwarted when Luca, the stable boy she has always loved, is kidnapped. Marrying the right suitor could save Luca but the kidnappers forget that Amarande isn’t just a princess. She’s also the Warrior King’s daughter.

Rather than wait for Luca’s return, Amarande is ready to make the first mark and rescue him–and her kingdom in The Princess Will Save You (2020) by Sarah Henning.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Princess Will Save You is the first book in Henning’s Kingdoms of Sand and Sky trilogy which continues in The Queen Will Betray You and The King Will Kill You. Amarande is cued as white but there is a variety of skintones among the kingdoms of the continent and among the cast in this novel. A close third person perspective primarily follows Amarande but does shift to other key characters including Luca.

Henning lays the groundwork for a complex world or reluctant allies, rival kingdoms, and sweeping political schemes. This eye for detail can make for a slow start but the story quickly gains momentum as Amarande embarks on her rescue mission. With a heroine who was raised to be a warrior, it will be no surprise that this book is filled with action and numerous battle and chase scenes. Although the specter of violence hangs over this story, the narrative avoids presenting gore for gore’s sake (be aware that there is a seen of torture in the final act of the book but that also avoids explicit or lengthy description).

Amarande is a smart but often reckless character who is tempered by the gentler (and more circumspect) Luca. Together, these two are a formidable team who demonstrate real partnership at every turn–even discussing the unequal power dynamics they have to work within because of Amarande’s royal status. Along the way both protagonists meet additional allies (and enemies) readers can expect to meet in later volumes. While she works to rescue Luca, the threat of the patriarchal status quo looms as the question of whether Amarande will truly be able to rule in her own right remains combined with a cliffhanger ending that will leave readers eager for the next installment.

The Princess Will Save You is a dynamic start to a fantasy series that strikes the perfect balance between political maneuvering and high action. Perfect for fans looking for a feminist story that strikes a balance between the iconic adventure of The Princess Bride and the complex but brutal Game of Thrones.

Possible Pairings: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim, The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, Little Thieves by Margaret Owen, Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto, The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*